The day began with Mazvita inviting the group to listen in silence for a word from God. After a few minutes people were invited to come foreward and read a verse from scripture that they felt was inspired. Many verses were read that referred to the needs of the poor, the hungry, the prisoners, the outcasts. The final pastor read Matthew 5, encouraging the group to love their enemies.
This time of devotion was followed by a “role play,” a dramatization of what one small group planned to implement when they returned home. It began with a pastor listening to the needs of various victims in his community. He then worked his way up the channels of power (the headsman, the chief, the police, the district administrator, the member of parliament. At every level he faced doubt and some resistance, but with persistance he was granted a letter allowing the church to address the victims of political violence. This inspired the rest of the group to network with various community leaders, to respond to the the victim’s needs.
Frank then gave a presentation on reconciling perpetrators and victims. He talked about the seven necessary elements for true and accountable reconciliation. These include: Recognition (the perpetrators acknowledgment of their offense), Remorse (empathy for the suffering they caused victim), Restitution (a commitment to repair the damage caused), Restraint (agreeing to conditions that prevent further violation), Restoration (a commitment to personal healing), and Regeneration ( a commitment to social healing through education, solidarity, and justice). Frank then taught restorative justice techniques as a means for accountable reconciliation for perpetrators and victims.
The group then discussed the conditions that caused perpetrators to become violent, seeking to develop a compassion for them and brainstormed creative ways of drawing perpetrators into reconciling processes.
In the afternoon the group was split into small groups by region and was charged with creating action plans with specific dates and some form of accountability. Strategies included: Leading reconciliation workshops for their respective congregations within the month; meeting local leaders (chiefs, headsmen, other community pastors, police, and political leaders) to discuss a plan for reconciliation workshops, forming a coop in order to meet the material needs of victims, identyfing perpetrators and victims within their communities and visiting each within their homes, inviting perpetrators and victims into reconciliation processes,
The group then crafted a letter of recommendations to present to the ruling unity government. A head chief and senator present at the conference then gave a passionate speech pledging to meet with the other forty-nine chiefs within Zimbabwe to promote reconciliation and healing, and also to call a meeting with the headsman in his region (the largest region in Zimbabwe) tomorrow.
One of the moving aspects of the afternoon was five chairs placed at the front of the room. Each chair had a piece of paper representing the different parties involved in reconciliation: victim, perpetrator, chief, church, and government. At the end of the day these five chairs were placed in the middle of the room. Volunteers were asked to come and sit in one of the chairs as representatives of each group. Five people came forward and sat in the chairs. We then circled the small group and prayed over them. The courage, compassion, and spirit of hope was tangible. It was clear that a movement of reconciliation throughout this wounded land had begun.
It was after dark by the time we left the conference center. Andy drove the Machinga’s truck while Frank and I stood in the back, feeling the night air of Zimbabwe one last time. We drove along the outskirts of Mutare while lightening flashed behind the distant mountains. As we drove we saw cooking fires among the households and as we passed various churches we saw the interior was lit with candles (another power outage) and held circles of people singing and praying. The truck bouncing on along the dirt road, the smell of cooking fires, our hearts full, Frank turned and said to me, “It feels like we’ve just witnessed history.”
–Mark and Frank