Christians in Zimbabwe were at the forefront of an unprecedented day of protest and public prayer in the capital city, Harare, yesterday, in support of a bold pastor who was arrested for his role in leading a popular social media campaign against corruption, financial mismanagement and unemployment.
And people celebrated with dancing in the streets, when against all expectations, a Harare magistrate yesterday dismissed charges against Pastor Evan Mawarire of trying to overthrow the government by calling for a peaceful stayaway.
Church leaders led the packed courtroom in prayer and outside the courthouse supporters of Mawarire’s #ThisFlag campaign prayed in small groups.
And when the magistrate asked who represented the accused, a group of lawyers in the room demonstrated solidarity by raising their Law Society cards — about 200 lawyers had offered to represent Mawarire for free but not all of them could get into the standing-room-only courtroom, reports Daily Maverick.
In a video message thanking Zimbabweans and people around the world who prayed for him after his arrest, Mawarire says the thousands of Zimbabweans who held a vigil outside the magistrate’s court and those who packed into the court, had demonstrated the power of unity and that “it can be done peacefully”.
Calling for Zimbabweans to stayaway from work today to send a message to the government that “enough is enough” he says: “Keep praying. God is doing something special and amazing in this country.”
A friend of Mawarire and pastor at River of Life Church, Harare, Scott Marques, posted the following eyewitness account on Facebook of the day of high-emotion and Christian unity at and around the magistrate’s court in Harare yesterday:
I reckon I will never forget this day as long as I live.
I cried tears of utter joy as i drove home with my hand on the horn all the way, as the whole city erupted in joy. What an experience. These are a few of the many things I cried about as I drove home :
– We saw today the leaders of the National Church, across all denominations, in unity with each other bringing prayer, blessing, peace and joy whilst massive tear-gas trucks and riot police stood aghast on stand-by
– We saw today these church leaders issue bold statements speaking truth in love to all Zimbabweans, giving direction and challenge
– We saw today the President of the EFZ, Dr. Shingi Munyeza, sit from morning to night in solidarity with Evan and many other church leaders there. I saw him lead an entire courtroom in prayer for Evan, for the Magistrate, for the Police and for Zimbabwe. Authority, humility, wisdom, truth and courage with every word.
– We heard today 5000 people chant ‘Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor….’ from outside the Magistrates court as the church lead the way in today’s proceedings
– We saw today 100’s of lawyers standing for justice and offering their services Pro-Deo and Pro-Bono – many holding up their lawyer’s ID when the magistrate asked who is taking this case.
– We saw today a Defense Lawyer lay down his vanity and allow for a team-effort of all lawyers, thereby receiving a torrent of legal advise as half the court-room were some of the best legal minds in the country. Every word the defence lawyer uttered seemed to build the most insurmountable defence that the Magistrate had ever heard.
– We saw today the accused, Evan Mawarire, come up from the cells, from the bowels of the magistrate’s court building, and hold his head high in the dock with a Zimbabwean flag around his neck. He stood resolutely, courageously trusting in God and continuing in his purpose.
– We heard today 2000+ people outside the courtroom hold a 5 minute silence/prayer time as the court-hearing started at 215pm.
– We heard today people excited in the courtroom about Sean Mullens who had just lead the masses outside to pray in groups as the afternoon entered its most challenging moment with some unrest setting in. I believe this altered the course of the day.
– We saw today every race and tribe loving Jesus, loving one another and loving Zimbabwe today
– We heard today an overflowing courtroom sing ‘Ishe Komborera Zimbabwe, Come Spirit, Holy Spirit’ as we waited 2.5 hours for the verdict. Police included in the singing.
– We saw today, after singing and praying in the courtroom, the riot police enter with AK-47’s, trungeons and shields. We saw them honoured by all inside and respectfully asked by a lawyer about their actions. We saw them reconsider and walk out after 5 minutes to great applause.
– I sang today of ‘The Blood of Jesus’ (directly translated from Shona ‘The Blood of God’) at the top of my voice in the courtroom with hundreds of others. And many other amazing songs of worship.
– We saw and heard today a judge bring a just and righteous judgement. not a word out of place – like poetry from beginning to end.
– We saw something I have prayed for over years – dancing in the streets and joy in homes. We saw this as Evan and his family left the courts for home and the thousands remaining kicked-off the biggest street party that Harare may have ever seen. I watched this guy love his wife and kids, preferring them to personal glory or fame.
– We saw today what could be something extraordinarily special for reconciliation and foundation-laying in Zimbabwe, even the influence of a continent.
– I experienced today Claire, Kimberley and Stephen praying for the whole day, faithfully sharing news/prayer-pointers with many family, friends and groups. And such a special time of sharing together as I arrived home.
I thank The Lord for doing immeasurably more than we could have asked for or imagined today.
Tomorrow is another day and no doubt there will be challenges to face. The most important thing is that Kingdom of God is advancing, the Church is growing and Jesus is working out his purposes in an amazing way, for His Glory!
Commenting on the day of drama, Daily Maverick wrote: “If Robert Mugabe’s regime falls – and that day is considerably closer today than it was yesterday – then historians will look back and pinpoint this as the moment when the tide began to turn. There’s no doubt that the sheer scale of the solidarity movement frightened the ruling party’s decision-makers, who never intended to let Mawarire walk, and may even have forced Magistrate Chikwekwe’s hand.
“On Wednesday, Zimbabweans in their thousands took on the regime, and won. And now that they’ve done it once, they can and will do it again.”
- Meanwhile in later developments senior church leaders who fear protests could explode into civil unrest have called on President Robert Mugabe’s administration to “listen to the cries of citizens whose cries and sufferings are loud and clear”. Read more