As the Catholic Church focuses on the young people this year, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, has reached out to young people in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo. The CCJP, which is an organisation whose mandate is to promote justice and peace guided by Gospel values, held a one-day workshop for leaders of the Archdiocese’s main youth bodies: the Catholic Young Adults Association (CYAA) and the Catholic Youth Association (CYA), at Isinga Young People’s Centre on Saturday 24 February 2018.
The Commission, which is mandated by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) to facilitate and disseminate Social Teachings of the Church and shed the light of the gospel on issues that affect our lives in society, shares the Church’s wisdom, insight and experience in dealing with them. They contain a number of principles which are relevant in our lives, such as dignity of the human person, respect for human life, and participation in all activities of the society that promote common good and the well-being of everyone especially the poor and the marginalised.
In line with this, the event focused mainly on how young people should relate to one another in their various communities and also exercise their rights and duties as Zimbabwean citizens to register to vote.
Addressing the young participants and parish youth advisors also attending the workshop, CCJP Project Director, Fr. Christopher Ngwarai said there is need to eradicate voters’ apathy amongst the youth.
"Some of our young people are not well equipped with knowledge about the Biometric Voter's Registration. Few of them have registered to vote too. Hence we encourage them to embrace the current process, which represents a chance for young people to be heard and to positively contribute to the future of our country," he said. Fr. Ngwarai challenged young people to develop an interest in national issues, good governance and to understand the dynamics of how things are done if they are to contribute to the betterment of their future.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace National Coordinator, Mr. Paul Muchena highlighted that the commission felt it was really important to conscientise the young people of Bulawayo on the latest ZCBC Pastoral Letter.
“We as CCJP are carrying out this programme in selected Dioceses but of course we have programmes running across the whole country. This particular programme to disseminate or popularise the Pastoral Letter on elections, peace and development (which came out on the 4th of June 2017) initially targeted the Archdiocese of Harare, but with the successes we had there we then thought it important to visit the Archdiocese of Bulawayo, the Diocese of Gweru and the Diocese of Hwange,” he said.
Speaking on the overall success of the day, Mr. Muchena was extremely pleased and captivated by the level of dialogue and understanding of the Pastoral Letter on Preparing for the Zimbabwe 2018 National Elections.
“I want to say I was very impressed with the level of understanding, the participation and involvement throughout the workshop. I think it’s a lesson to us that whatever programmes we have, it is best to start with the young people who we might take for granted or oversee. They are a very important stakeholder in these issues and today they have shown a lot of enthusiasm and a great appreciation of relevant issues. I want to remind the young people that they are not the future, but rather they are actually the present and should take it seriously and responsibly to determine the future.”
The one-day event gave young Catholic leaders the opportunity to revisit and better understand the Pastoral Letter of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference on Preparing for the Zimbabwe 2018 National Elections. In this document, the ZCBC has highlighted seven main appeals and points of reflection ahead of this year’s elections:
~ accept one another and respect different opinions
~ choose our words and build unity
~ revere our constitution
~ government to let all citizens fully enjoy political rights and freedom of expression
~ for all citizens to enjoy the fruits of peace such food, water, education, health care among others
~ for citizens to wisely and responsibly choose our leaders
~ reject all forms of violence and coercion.
Archbishop of Bulawayo, Alex Thomas, applauded both the CCJP and young people for their good works within the Archdiocese. He also encouraged young people to look for good qualities in their leaders when voting. Furthermore, he reminded all stakeholders of the event that Catholicism is not a part-time activity, but a universal and perpetual way of life.
"Faith is the most important aspect of our lives, the rest can follow. It is important to choose wisely our leaders – leaders who are God-fearing. We need to desist from violence and irresponsible behaviour. Our speech and actions should always complement our Catholicism,“ he said.
CCJP Administrator in Bulawayo, Fr. Fikile Dlamini noted that Bulawayo’s young people tended not to participate in national issues and it was important to educate them on their role to participate in issues of national development:
“To the young people of Bulawayo, this is the first activity that we are offering as CCJP to enlighten them of their rights and the need to participate. It has been proven statistically that Bulawayo tends to have to relatively fewer young people register to vote or participate in national issues. We feel that as CCJP Zimbabwe and the Bulawayo office it is important for us to engage the youth and create a platform for healthy dialogue among them. We feel it is important that they be aware of what is going on around them and motivate the spirit of participation among them. So far this is the main programme we are offering to the young people of the Archdiocese, but we plan to liaise more with the Archdiocese Youth Office and see how best we can work hand in hand. Recently the ZCBC released a Pastoral Letter on Stewardship, and considering today’s dialogue, there is an interest in knowing more about the Constitution of Zimbabwe. These are some of the topics we may address in the future. I encourage these young people to continue with the enthusiasm and innovation they have shown today.”
The young leaders participated in various group activities to show their understanding of the Pastoral Letter as well as gave input on how they felt some of the nation’s challenges can be addressed and overcome through understanding and appreciation of each other.
Bulawayo Archdiocese Spiritual Director for both the CYAA and the CYAA, Fr. Johannes Maseko commended the good attendance by the young leaders, who are the influential people in their respective parishes:
“To lead means to have a bigger scope of influence. This is going to help us in the Archdiocese in that we understand our social and human responsibilities in governance, in how the country is run, and owning up to the responsibility that we are Zimbabweans. We cannot be good citizens for the world to come without being good citizens here and now. So this what we are grooming, because these are the present and future leaders. Once they are on the track, we are already assured of a future. But it starts now, and it starts with them.
The church is having an impact in mobilising young people. Young people represent 50% of the Archdiocese’s population, and today 80% of the parishes are represented here. The leaders here present will go back to their parishes and help others understand the importance of registering to vote. We also realise that these are the same people who interact on social media platforms and in person with the greater majority that hasn't registered to vote. Through this workshop we have ignited a fire of knowledge that we are positive will reach all young people.”
Other stakeholders attending the event included Mrs. Eunice Gamure, a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Officer, who spoke to the young people and advisors about the Biometric Voter Registration process. She took time to answer questions from the youth, and encouraged those who have not registered to vote to do so. Mrs. Gamure ensured the participants that it is a safe and discrete registration process. She also emphasised on the need for peace, citing that Christians should always be peace ambassadors who will enable peaceful harmonized elections when the time comes.