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Praying and voting goes together

Praying and voting goes together

Vimbai Mkaronda prays and votes. Photo: ZCC

11 July 2018

*By Claus Grue

When Zimbabwe holds general elections on 30 July, the turnout at the polls will most likely be – at least somewhat – affected by the IprayIvote-web and social media campaign, which was launched by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) on 30 January this year, exactly six months prior to the election.

Not only is it the first election in more than three decades without the candidacy of the country’s long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, but also an election which is clearly about peaceful democratic transformation, and where the Christian churches are more visible and more influential than ever before.

The reasoning behind the campaign, as presented on its social media sites, is To choose political leaders, people who are going to represent you in government is a Christian responsibility. This is evidenced from the early church, the church always sat down to make decision, to identify people who would represent the underprivileged communities, and for this reason, we believe that it is your duty and ours to register to vote, and vote in peace. I pray, I vote.

The IprayIvote-campaign correlates praying for fair elections, peace and prosperity with concrete action by casting a vote to influence the direction of the country.
“We are driven by Christian – not political – values. We thus don’t take any party-political stands but we do urge people to go and vote”, explains ZCC communications officer Vimbai Mkaronda.

The campaign has paid off according to the recently published ZCC Election Research Report 2018 Harmonised Elections: Prospects for democratic transition in Zimbabwe, which draws on interviews with more than 1600 respondents in both urban and rural areas. In spite of continuous lack of confidence in the electoral process and public institutions, there is an increased interest in the upcoming elections, the report concludes.

“To what extent that can be attributed to the IprayIvote-campaign is difficult to tell, but what is clear is that the campaign has had a tremendous impact on Christian voters”, says Mkaronda.

The campaign now counts thousands of followers on social media and the numbers continue to rise.

Another important aspect is the unity and increased visibility of the ZCC member churches in Zimbabwe.

“Christian congregations across the country have emerged as a united force for peaceful democratic transformation through open and fair elections. That will certainly have a long-lasting effect, far beyond the elections, on the public’s perception of the Christian churches and their role in society”, Mkaronda continues.

She thus sees the election and the campaign as an important step towards an increasingly visible church – a church which is heard and listened to in the public debate. Such engagement has not passed unnoticed. During a visit in Zimbabwe in early July to support a free and fair election process, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit described the current situation as “a moment of hope and you in the churches are at the forefront of the process”.

The IprayIvote campaign initiative is one contributing factor.

Video: WCC interview: Zimbabwe Council of Churches general secretary Kenneth Mtata

WCC general secretary encourages churches before Zimbabwe election (WCC press release of 5 July 2018)

Renewed hope for a prosperous Zimbabwe (WCC press release of 21 March 2018)

WCC member churches in Zimbabwe

*Claus Grue is communication consultant for the World Council of Churches