Church and community are working together for peace.
The Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) was born in October 2008 and registered as a Trust in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe in August 2010. It started as a group of concerned christian leaders from churches related to the major ecumenical bodies in Zimbabwe. It was born out of a need felt by many church leaders for an effective body that would bring together a variety of church leaders at all levels, both clergy and lay, male and female from all denominations for the purpose of reflecting on the prophetic role of the Church in Zimbabwe and on issues of peace and nation building.
It is common knowledge that the nation of Zimbabwe has gone through a rough patch that has seen the decline and collapse of all sectors of the economy as well as the moral, social and political fabric of the nation. Its democratization efforts have been accompanied by severe politically motivated violence which has been witnessed country-wide and in the recent past most notably before, during and after elections. This has left many individuals and communities very bitter and traumatized.
In the face of such widespread pain, anger, bitterness and trauma it became imperative to many concerned Christians that the Church should reflect on its role in such a polarized society. It was noted that over these tumultuous years after Zimbabwe attained its independence, the church was not able to speak with one voice, no longer as visible as it used to be, and that it was becoming more and more irrelevant, because it failed to meaningfully engage in contemporary social, economic, and political issues of concern to the ordinary Zimbabwean.
The group of concerned church leaders came together regularly in 2009 to reflect on the situation and to share experiences and in that process reaffirmed their conviction that the true Church of Christ cannot and must not run away from issues of good governance and accountability, healing, reconciliation and forgiveness in Zimbabwe, if it is to remain true to its calling. They also noted with concern their failure as church leaders to respond timeously and concretely to the very painful and traumatic events in the country as they unfolded. Churches have concentrated more on providing material support to the victims of violence and done very little that would contribute towards the prevention, management and resolution of conflict or peace-building as a whole.
Those church leaders felt that to become an effective instrument of the churches there has to be a paradigm shift in the understanding of church leadership in Zimbabwe, so that it becomes inclusive for all church leaders, both clergy and lay, rather than limit it to heads of denominations. Secondly, they also felt a need to engage all members of the Church and their communities in creating a just, peaceful and tolerant society and to motivate all church leaders, to actively participate in such a process. Consequently, the leadership of ECLF resolved to give priority to the strengthening of the prophetic role of the church in peace building and to enabling each congregation to indeed become a reconciling and healing community (2 Chronicles 7:14).
ECLF, therefore emerged out of a need for an ecumenical body that would bring together christian leaders at all levels to reflect on issues of concern and collegiality affecting the nation, and together promote strategies and action that would amplify the prophetic voice of the church. ECLF aims at empowering the church leaders at all levels to respond constructively and positively to both the political and social challenges of Zimbabwe with practical knowledge and skills that will enable them to be authentic, relevant and practical as they address the daily issues of life that affect God’s creation.