Miriam Tose Majome
RELIGION is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false and by the rulers as useful: Lucious Annaeus Seneca — Roman philosopher and statesman who lived between 4BC and AD65.
The turn of the millennium brought a sharp rise in the number of evangelical Christian churches in Zimbabwe. Until the late 90s there were mostly traditional churches dominated by the Roman Catholic Church and the mainstream protestant churches like Anglican, Baptist and Methodist churches. There were a number of home grown churches such as ZAOGA, AFM, FOG and religious sects associated with the Mapositori faith. Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy meaning there is no official State religion, although there is a bias towards Christian rites during sombre occasions. Even so, it is illegal to compel people to subscribe to it. There is both freedom of religion and freedom from religion in Zimbabwe meaning people are allowed to subscribe to any religion of their choice as well as not subscribe to any religion if they do not want to. Adherents of other religions like Islam, Judaism, Rastafarianism and Buddhism have the right to practice their religions freely and defend their rights to do so if they are hindered.
Before the 2000s Christian churches generally conducted their affairs quietly and discreetly without attracting too much attention and some still do. Society seemed to be in harmony and the religious establishment appeared to be balanced and did not jostle to hog the limelight as it does now. Things changed after 2000 when church and religion were suddenly thrown into everybody’s face everywhere. Waves of radical Christian evangelism took over the country when local charismatic preachers discovered the power of radio and television. At first they imitated American TV evangelists then the majority settled their admiration on West African religiosity, which is a curious fusion of Christianity and African Spirituality embellished with a good dose of superstition, mysticism and occultism.