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Lord, how long will I call and You will not answer?

Zimbabwe | Food is scarce, prices are skyrocketing, fear reigns-and the man behind it all, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, just inaugurated himself to another term of office

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

The following is a letter written by a pastor in Harare. He has asked to remain unidentified for security reasons.

Zimbabwe, June 2008: Habakkuk asked God two questions at the beginning of his short oracle and in those two questions concealed two accusations. "Lord, how long will I call and You will not hear? How long will I cry and You will not save?" Implicit in the questions is Habakkuk's troubled conclusions: God does not hear and God does not act.

I was led, I believe by the Lord, to begin a few weeks ago a short series on Sunday mornings on the prophecy of Habakkuk. As I sit here in my office writing this short update, I have a sense that we as a church have reached the point that Habakkuk reached. God has brought us to a point in our experience where we ask Him, "Lord, do You hear? Lord, why are You doing nothing?"

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God was gracious then. He allowed Habakkuk to pray in this way and brought him through troubled questions to faith, the faith that made him stand with hind's feet on high places. And we are convinced that God is gracious yet. He has heard our confused and pained cries, our veiled, humble yet honest questions about His care and power, and He will yet bring us to a point of faith, and we too will stand on high places. But between the questions of chapter 1:2 to the faith of 3:19 is a hard journey.

We need, please, for you to pray for us and for our land.

There is a façade of normalcy in our nation: In the hall above me, bouncy Christian music blares and I hear the sound of dancing feet as a ladies aerobic outreach class meets. Outside my office, the janitorial assistant mops the hall floor, friends have popped in on their way to tend a vegetable garden they have started as a ministry, this afternoon we will go as a family to watch the first team rugby match at school. People walk in the street, young people hang out, bills are paid, people laugh and chat, and churches continue to meet.

But with our president Mr. Mugabe's win as a result of his recent tactics, then there is no arresting of the increasingly rapid slide into economic implosion and total societal disintegration. It seems unlikely that the President will relinquish power in any scenario, the army and air force and police are puppets, or rather fellow dominoes who realize that when one domino falls over, the whole lot will collapse.

After the first election, we foolishly believed that we were getting a new government. He had lost, it was clear, it had to be accepted!

Oh no it did not! We have seen what can only be described as diabolical cleverness and demonic wickedness in the past months. Long delays in announcements, frustrating the work of the electoral commission, miring the issue in court proceedings-and then the violence. Slowly but steadily, well-planned and orchestrated, the violence has grown. In past elections votes could be bought, bought with food, bought with promises, bought with land. Now the food has run out, promises are seen to be hollow, land is taken and misused. Now, votes must be coerced, and coerced through violence.

In the rural areas, whole villages are being intimidated, chiefs are being threatened with reprisals by the army should a village support the opposition, people are fleeing homes and living and sleeping in the bush for fear of beatings, rape, pillaging, and the burning of their homes by gangs of youths armed and mandated by the government. I do not wish to horrify you, but if you want, have a look at some of the human rights reports on Zimbabwe on the internet to see some of the horrific acts of violence. One of our elders said that having read these, he determined not to share them with his wife.

Even in the cities violence has come. Commuter omnibuses and minicabs used for public transport are being stopped and the drivers beaten. Passengers have to get out and chant ZANU-PF (ruling party) slogans or they are beaten. People are asked to repeat the party slogan and if they do not know it, they are beaten. A church member has just come in and shared how she travelled to a nearby town, and on the way was stopped at two police roadblocks and made to chant slogans. A young man in the church witnessed youths stopping a minibus, pulling out the driver and beating him on the street, without reprisal, without police interference.

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