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Reflections on the WCC Solidarity
Visit to Zimbabwe

by Doim Bang-joo,
WSCF AP Human Rights Coordinator
WCC Solidarity Visit to Zimbabwe

Why me? This question bothered me every night on this trip, because I did not have enough time to digest the information about Zimbabwe and their story. Initially I thought, as a layperson, I did not exactly fit in the composition of the WCC visiting team, composed mainly of church leaders from other countries and meeting the church leaders in Zimbabwe. As a student worker, I wanted to meet the students or grassroots people in Zimbabwe, however due to the limitation of the time schedule arranged by Zimbabwe Council of Churches, it was not possible.

Almost all the church leaders have so much information about the Zimbabwe country’s situation, its history, politics, economy, and social realities. I observed as they begin their speeches, they often use “We are now...” and they closed by saying “so that we need...”. I understand that as church leaders they have to speak on behalf of church people. In their speech, I struggled to hear the ‘voice of people’. In their salmon there were analysis on every issues and information, their current needs and their future plans. International media organizations like the CNN and BBC have overflowed us with information and analysis about the situation in Zimbabwe, I thought what was needed by the visiting teams was to listen to the voices of the Zimbabwe people who are in churches and on the streets. And so, as I listened to the speeches of the church leaders, I had difficulty recognizing the people voices when they used the word WE.

Fortunately we had a meeting with grassroots people from churches in Bulawayo. Most of them cannot speak English like their leaders. Church leaders translated their stories. They were crying when they were sharing their stories. As I compare the speeches of the leaders, the leaders were angry with their stories while the church members were expressing anguish and pain. Once again due to the translation, I could not properly listen to the people’s voices in the stories.

Our visits were very much focus on meeting with the leaders. This has somehow limited us from understanding the real situation of the people. Officially the purpose of this trip was very clear but I felt that there could be other ways to understand the situation of the Zimbabwe people. Visits to other groups, grassroots people, secular organizations could offer different perspective and voices on the situation in Zimbabwe. For example, home stays with members of the church could help us understand the daily struggle of the people. Meeting with social minorities will enable the visiting team understand the social context.

As I return to Korea and meet with KSCF members, I will share the information and the stories that were shared to me in Zimbabwe. I will write about my experience and share this with other people. Hopefully, with enough information, I can find a way to support the work of the youth and in Zimbabwe.