16 Jun Christian Opposition to the National Pledge
Some people in certain sections of our society have asked why are we, as Christians in Zimbabwe, opposed to the national pledge. They are asking why Prayer Network Zimbabwe has taken the lead to rally the nation in standing up against the government policy. Some are even going further to argue that the national pledge is largely drawn from the preamble of the national constitution, and they question why we are opposed to it?
Let me outline the reasons why as Christians are we opposed to the national pledge.
Firstly, we believe that the national pledge is an oath taken by our primary and secondary school children in allegiance to our national flag. We are of the view that reciting the pledge is contrary to the Christian faith which teaches us not to swear by anything in heaven or on earth. Further, in saluting the flag, we believe there is some subtle “worship” of the flag and this is contrary to the Christian faith which teaches us to worship no other God but the Lord alone.
Curiously, the pledge neither worships nor honours Jehovah God, it simply acknowledges him, yet is gives eminence to the flag and honours the fallen heroes. We believe that this is contrary to the Christian faith. Also, the references to honouring the heroes of the liberation struggle have a risk of descending into worship of the dead, a practice which is contrary to the Christian doctrine. While the principle of honouring heroes is not evil in itself, the swearing and pledging allegiance to them may run contrary to the Christian beliefs. Thus if Christian pupils are compelled to recite the national pledge, they are being compelled to take an oath that is contrary to their religious beliefs.
We believe this is unconstitutional as Section 60 of the Zimbabwean constitution clearly provides for freedom of conscience and religion. It is therefore an infringement of our children’s freedom of conscience to force them to recite a commitment to the flag contrary to our religion. In championing the anti-pledge campaign, all we are doing is to assert our right to freedom of conscience and related rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
Further, our religion, teaches against careless swearing or taking careless oaths. When one takes an oath, like an oath of office, the person must be mature and aware of what that means. This is critical in the event of one breaking that oath, there will be consequences. The Bible in Mathew 5 teaches against taking oaths carelessly. In the national pledge, what are the consequences of breaking the oath? Do our children really know what the oath means?
Moreover, we oppose the national pledge because, as stakeholders, we were not consulted in the wording of the pledge. If our children have to take such a commitment, we must be consulted, we must input into such and there must be an agreement as a nation on the wording. None of that was done by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. We only saw our children coming home with national pledge quotes on papers and reciting, only to be informed by our children that it was commencing at the school opening in May 2016
Further still, the wording of the national pledge fails to build an agreement among Zimbabweans. It says in the pledge ‘..We are proud inheritors of our natural resources…” This is not true. To millions of us, our natural resources have been looted and plundered by the elite. President Mugabe recently acknowledged that over $15 billion worth of diamonds has been looted or is unaccounted for. Who has stolen that money? It’s our leaders! They are corrupt, greedy and selfish. They do not care at all about the common man. I know this is subjective and debatable, but it’s a debate going on in the country at the moment. Until it is logically concluded, it is evil to manipulate our children to swear that they are proud inheritors of those looted resources! This is unacceptable!
Some people have argued that the national pledge is extracted from the preamble of national constitution and that the Constitution was approved by the majority of the people and that is acknowledges the Almighty God, thus does not violate Christian principles. That thinking is clearly defective. For starters, the Constitution is not recited by anyone and the preamble itself is just an introduction to the substantive provisions of the constitution. If there is a conflict between the preamble and a substantive provision of the constitution, the substantive provision will prevail over the preamble. Our point is that the pledge violates our children’s rights to freedom of conscience, and to that extent, the text that was taken from the preamble must give way to the right to freedom of conscience.
Only the President and other government officials take the oath of allegiance to the constitution, and not even to the flag. Apart from having a symbolic significance, the flag also carries with it a spiritual significance and foisting it on children is surely an imposition of the spiritual connotations on the children.
Lastly, it must be pointed out that the national pledge has come together with huge and massive attack against Christianity by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Lazarus Dokora. As Christians, we are battling to correct and fight against some of the most heinous proposals against Christianity since independence. These include the banning of Scripture Unions in schools, the banning of the Lord’s Prayer (now replaced by the national pledge), the banning of the distribution of the Bible in schools and the banning of the use of schools and Church venues. This is unacceptable!
In conclusion, if we are to have a national pledge in our schools, there must be consensus on the framing, wording and implementation of such. There must be consultation and building of a national consensus around the matter. It must also be put on record that over 80% of Zimbabweans are Christians and that must be respected. Most importantly Zimbabweans have been hugely provoked now and before, but as a nation we have been held together by the prayers of the saints. That must be respected. If you destroy Christianity, this country will be ungovernable in no time! Make no mistake.
God Bless Zimbabwe
Jacob C. S. Ngarivhume
Patron and Founding Chairman
Prayer Network Zimbabwe