At the time of writing, news is coming through of political change in Zimbabwe. The media commentators are very hopeful for the future of this beautiful country, not least because of the high standard of education of its people. Literacy levels are very high despite the material privations and economic collapse over the last decades. When Cecil Rhodes, the now discredited colonialist and mining magnate, sent settlers north from Cape Colony in the 1890s they were accompanied by Jesuit priests and Dominican sisters who laid the foundations of the education system. Both these groups of religious are still present in Zimbabwe faithfully carrying on their mission. Many other religious orders have joined them in the last 130 years.
This small aspect of the history of Zimbabwe shows how important it is to value and invest in people. Cecil Rhodes' intentions were to explore for diamonds and gold, but the unintended consequence was to create something greater than those things – an educated people.
As we prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, we are reminded that the gift of the Son of God is far greater than the material things we use to celebrate this feast. His belief in each of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, gives us great hope. This hope based on the incarnation of God strengthens us through the troubles of life because God is truly with us. This hope has sustained the people of Zimbabwe through the last decades. Let us thank them for their faith and pray that the new year will bring them, and us, many blessings.