Harare (Agenzia Fides) - "Zimbabwe is an agricultural country with 14 million inhabitants in southern Africa. It suffered a devastating drought in 2018/2019 which caused unspeakable suffering for the population who rely on agriculture for their livelihood. In March 2019, the cyclone Idai hit some parts of the Country, which caused thousands of people to be displaced and the crops of the fields that were almost ready for harvesting were wiped out". With these words Father Simplisio Manyika, O.Carm, national Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Zimbabwe, describes the situation in the country to Agenzia Fides. When the inhabitants were slowly beginning to recover, the coronavirus pandemic appeared.
"The arrival of Covid-19 has been a shock to our healthcare facilities. The lockdown has brought even more suffering to the poor", notes Fr. Simplisio, stressing that the closure of churches deprived people of spiritual nourishment just when they needed it most, moreover parishes and dioceses that live on the offerings of the faithful, have no longer had resources. Due to the lockdown, farmers cannot sell their agricultural products, traders have no sources of income, many villagers who worked abroad and who sent their earnings to their homeland have been expelled or have returned. "Many people find life unbearable and struggle to cope with daily needs", notes the priest.
"In this context, the Church of Zimbabwe has asked several international organizations for assistance in responding to the challenges posed by Covid-19 and has received, among others, aid from the Emergency Fund of the Pontifical Mission Societies", says Fr. Simplicio, explaining that part of the funds will be used to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic through the Health Commission present in each diocese and other funds will serve to feed the hungry who increase day by day.
"Some initiatives have come from the Catholic Education Commission, which is supplying schools that need buckets of water for hygienic measures and thermometers to measure temperature. The Health Commission is instructing Catholic health personnel on appropriate ways to respond to this pandemic, by providing personal protective equipment. Caritas Zimbabwe is also touring the Country to donate food aid to the needy".
In this regard, the PMS National Director cites a significant episode. "Recently there has been the distribution of food parcels by the Church in one of the poorest parishes in the diocese of Harare. The distribution took place at the Catholic parish church, but it covered the entire community of various religious faiths, and the political leadership of the community was present to witness. The parish priest helped distribute the food, which would last three months, to eighty families. All the people were touched by how the Catholic Church did not discriminate. Political leaders were speechless with gratitude, and ended up encouraging those present to learn 'from the Mother Church', as a politician who is not a Catholic said. This is just a simple example of how charity and evangelization are the two sides of the same coin".
Father Simplicio notes that through these aids, the dioceses can breathe "a sigh of relief", in addition the aid from the PMS Emergency Fund "has opened people’s eyes, who now understand how important it is to share the little they have with those who have nothing".
Some dioceses have started a program between urban parishes with poor rural parishes: urban parishes collect food and offerings and then send them to their twin rural parish. "The emergency fund we have received will help us alleviate the suffering of the poor in Zimbabwe", concludes the PMS National Director. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 29/7/2020)