By Kimion Tagwirei
There have been voluminous writings in journals, print and electronic media proposing, supporting and pushing for the Church to be the voice of the voiceless since time immemorial. Most Church bodies and individuals have been speaking out for the poor, weak and oppressed whilst that is commendable, the Church should consider going beyond being the voice of the voiceless. The Church should move from speaking to standing out actively and empowering the voiceless to speak and stand for themselves out of their problems towards their desired needs.
Being the voice of the voiceless
Biblically, Proverbs 31:8–9 instructs, it is paramount to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed, advocate for the rights of all who are poor, weak, helpless, oppressed, usually used and abused by selfish politicians for power conquest and retention. That is being the voice of the voiceless – being advocates of those who cannot stand for themselves in our societies. Proverbs 24:11 calls us to “rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter,” and Isaiah 1:17 adds; “learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow”.
Biblical reflection on voices of the voiceless
Esther boldly used her influence with king Xerxes to save Jewish people from imminent genocide (Esther 5–10) whilst Amos voiced against oppression of the poor and vulnerable. Nathan diplomatically rebuked King David against power abuse and sexual mania exposed in his case with Uriah’s wife (2 Samuel 11–12). Joseph saved Egyptian people and his family from famine (Genesis 47:13–26), and contributed to critical needs of their times.
Our Lord Jesus Christ declared that the spirit of God was upon him to deliver good news to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, preach deliverance to captives, recovering of sight to the blind and to liberate the oppressed (Luke 4:18). The Bible indicates that voicing for the voiceless is imperative for us to learn from, and contribute towards solutions to identified problems of the voiceless in our communities.
However, speaking out only may not yield needed answers. Historically our Zimbabwean case has shown that those who speak out eventually get victimized, silenced and at times murdered. Usually those who get victimized do not always get adequate help, and those they used to voice for may keep voiceless and helpless. Most of such people who are fighting for the voiceless get limited support in many of our communities. Several outspoken voices of the voiceless eventually get silenced and fall into dustbins of history.
While voicing for the voiceless is very crucial, going beyond that appears highly progressive. Going beyond being the voice of the voiceless is over and above civic engagements, to empowering the voiceless to speak up for themselves and for others, so that whenever need arises, they can stand for themselves and for others. It seems progressive also because if the voiceless get empowered, they become able to stand not only for themselves, but also for and with those who used to advocate for them when victimization and related challenges occur. It will be thrilling to find the once voiceless speaking for their heroes who contributed to their liberation from helplessness and vulnerability.
Life shows that everyone is, and gets voiceless and vulnerable at a certain point and place – age; position, location, health, education, spirituality, economy and politics are part of factors that determine everyone’s vulnerabilities. When too young, or too old; in authority and influence or without; close or away from answers; educated or uneducated; spiritually strong or weak; economically well up or down; politically enabled or restricted; one appears without a strong voice and exposed to various vulnerabilities. In such times short of a voice, each person needs someone to voice for them. We all therefore need others to speak, go an extra mile and stand for us in times of our weakness, helplessness and vulnerabilities.
Going beyond being the voice of the voiceless
Having done so well in speaking up against evils of our times, it sounds critical to go for extra miles of getting actively involved in areas where needs of the voiceless can be pursued from. The Church should therefore no longer be reactive like watchdogs that only make noise when evil appear. The Church should proactively raise civic leaders, economists, politicians and gospel ministers who will serve humanity as stewards bearing in mind that they are also accountable to God.
Traditionally the Church has been contributing great minds to social, religious and economic sectors of the country as well confirmed by the rise of Christians taking influential positions.
Unfortunately she has been giving minimum attention to active political involvement. While debates about dangers of active engagement in our Zimbabwean context rage on, Old Testament Biblical lessons through prophetic influence and participation in politics of their times, for example Moses’ leadership in liberating Israelites from Egyptian bondage, and New Testament Mathew 5:13–16’s call for believers to be the salt and light of the world challenge us to get involved towards influencing and showing living examples for life advancement. Imagine having genuine Christians in political, economic and social positions of authority in Zimbabwe – it inspires intensified consideration and efforts for active involvement.
More–so, the voiceless cannot be voiceless for their entire lives and not giving attention to their empowerment is retrogressive and irresponsible. The Church can, and should strategize empowerment programs to enlighten and empower the voiceless in all essential areas such as economics and politics. Basic training programs on civic education and related essentials can enable citizens to stand for themselves and for others in pursuit of their needs from an informed position.
Conclusively, voicing for the voiceless has been greatly sacrificial, lovely and commendable, especially in Zimbabwe where advocacy attracts tragic political victimization. This piece pointed us to the need for further stretches beyond voicing, to standing up, getting actively involved in all areas demanding attention, especially politics, to influence as salt. To provide enlightening examples as light of the world as well as empowering the voiceless to voice for themselves, and for others towards a progressive society in which the able enable others for mutual development and continuity.