With the support of a JPII Center Leader Grant, Fr. Herbert Banda (Cohort VIII, Zimbabwe) initiated an interfaith symposium on drug abuse in his home country of Zimbabwe. In collaboration with Evans Nyamadzo (Cohort XIV, Zimbabwe), Fr. Banda organized this event to be hosted at his home parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQOP) in Entumbane.
Fr. Banda, parish priest of OLQOP, opened the Interfaith Symposium on Drug Abuse with a welcome address. Held on February 4, 2023 in Entumbane, this symposium aimed to address the growing concern of drug abuse within local suburbs as well as on a national level—a concern common to many communities in Zimbabwe.
“This project brought together experts and officials—from the Christian and Muslim religions—to give lectures on the topics of substance abuse and domestic violence among their communities,” explains Fr. Banda, “and how to build bridges through dialogue to counter these issues.”
The symposium engaged a variety of voices from the local community: from social workers and psychiatrists to police officers and religious leaders.
Drawing from the Gospel of John, Fr. Elvis Gwangwava, Assistant Parish Priest of OLQOP, offered a lecture on the Christian approach to drug abuse that drew upon scripture. Sheikh Ronald Mugayi gave a Muslim perspective on drug abuse, quoting from the Qur’an. “We are saying no to stigmatization to those who are into drug abuse,” said Sheikh Mugayi, “instead let us bring them closer to us for counseling/advising, for they have the power to be the leader of tomorrow.”
After a day of diverse and comprehensive talks and workshops, Fr. Banda outlined a threefold “Way Forward” to address drug abuse in Entumbane: the creation of local “Safe Spaces” for youth in the community; the facilitation of open dialogues on drugs at local churches; and an approach of social inclusion to welcome those struggling with drug abuse into the local community.
“This was the beginning of establishing this platform in my township,” shares Fr. Banda, who is hopeful about continued interfaith collaboration around local and national issues in Zimbabwe.