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Zimbabwe stands to gain a lot from the spread of Secular values in the   country because faith groups are taking advantage of the dire economic   situation to further exploit the people and undermine their potentials.   And this has to stop. Some secular minded individuals who are concerned   about this dangerous trend are beginning to organize.

They are working   to create a secular platform for dialogue with other faith   organisations, challenge Religious privilege and tackle the abuse and   exploitation of persons by churches and their self-acclaimed prophets   and pastors. Recently I spoke to Fred, a secular activist in this   southern African nation and he told me that “the Constitution mentions   that Zimbabwe is a Christian country”. Although he noted that there   were sections that guaranteed secular values such freedom of religion or   belief.

This is not peculiar to Zimbabwe. In Nigeria, the constitution   guarantees freedom of religion but in muslim majority states, sharia law   is in force and religious minorities suffer discriminations. Fred   stressed that one sector that needed secular attention in Zimbabwe is   the schools:

“The education system is also religious and the government recently   attempted to ban religious activities in government schools, not for   secular reasons but for political ones, but they never succeeded”. The   government wanted to replace school prayers with the national anthem.   Apart from religious devotion, Fred noted: “They also teach   creationism in primary school under the colonial syllabus (yes they   still use the Rhodesian system) under a discipline known as content,   science, pseudo-science and religion are taught side by side”.

Fred drew my attention to the fact that one church in Zimbabwe was   denying children vaccines: “In the Marange area and in many other   districts, we have the John Marange African Apostolic faith that denies   children vaccines or any medical care, they have been experiencing very   high infant mortality rates and children are dying because of that”.

This secular group plans to wage a campaign against this.   One other pressing issue is the practice of all night prayers. Fred says   this practice has a harmful impact on the health and well-being of   children because parents who take their children to this activity deny   and deprive them of sleep. “This is a norm in Zimbabwe”, he says,   “almost every family goes for all night prayers”.

Furthermore, this secular movement in Zimbabwe plans to tackle   witchcraft accusations. Fred said: “witch hunts still go on in African   Apostolic faith churches. They abuse several people, make people drink   sewage water including children”.

Fred is a university graduate and during his university days, he   interned with an NGO. He witnessed firsthand “how religious dogma was   holding back development” in the areas of education, health and the   rule of law. He stated:   “Development in Zimbabwe has slackened mainly because of corruption   and one of the most common forms of corruption is a special type of   religious denominational selection. For instance, every Zimbabwean in   Mutare knows that you won’t get a job at Edgars if you do not go to   Makandiwa’s church. Church has become the platform to access business   and employment opportunities”   Fred is also concerned about the mix of religion and politics:   “Another issue is that our religious leaders are involved in politics.

I mentioned earlier about the John Marange sect, there are several more   including Paul Mwazha who actively endorses ZANU PF. Mugabe has stayed   in power for 36 years partly because of this. Ezekiel Guti of ZAOGA also   endorses the dictatorship and his resurrecting fame gains him popular   appeal. Magaya of PHD ministries actually gave Grace Mugabe $50 000 for   her birthday, people in Zimbabwe are not guided by rationality or   economic or human rights concerns when they vote. Lastly, religion has a   great impact on human development in Zimbabwe. I believe we have the   lowest scientific literacy rate in the world because of religion, and   innovation is low because everyone is not living in reality but thinking   about a Jerusalem they have never been to yet”. The secular group   plans to address these issue and more as part of their program to   realize a free, tolerant and secular society.

Fred thinks that secularism has a critical role to play in the   intellectual emancipation of Zimbabweans:   “If a secular community is established and given a platform to voice   its concerns, given an opportunity to grow, maybe the politicians are   going to notice and consider our concerns. Secularism will raise   concerns that have never been raised in Zimbabwe, fact checking in   academic syllabi, religious denomination based employment. The secular   movement will introduce a world view that will lead to intellectua   liberation in the country”.

The secular movement in Zimbabawe surely has its job cut out for it. And   I hope secular minded people in the country will rise up to this   important challenge.

Written by Leo Igwe.

This post first appeared on News In Nigeria, please read the originial post: here

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