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Missionary Martyrs

Missionary MartyrsMissionary Martyrs of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, 1976-1988, by Ted Rogers, SJ

(Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 2017), xiv + 215 pages; ISBN: 978-0-620-77626-4.

Conceptualized as an account of thirty Catholic missionaries who were brutally killed in Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe) between 1976 and 1988, Fr. Ted Rogers’ Missionary Martyrs could not have been timelier. The recent events that have seen former President Robert Mugabe reluctantly relinquish power expose us to the chequered and still highly contested history of Zimbabwe. Just who owns the country’s past? To the extent that claimants to the past occupy the present and arrogate to themselves the right to determine the future, war veterans, freedom fighters, and members of the Rhodesian security forces identify themselves with the honourable past. That remains the case until we are reminded that the past is dishonourable too. Missionary Martyrs succeeds in highlighting—albeit rudimentarily and somewhat repetitively—the honour and dishonour in in the history of Zimbabwe and in showing that the dishonour is yet to be accounted for, or claimed. Moreover, by choosing Missionary Martyrs for title, the author causes the reader to reconsider the meaning of martyrdom. Unlike the 2016 film Silence in which heroes and heroines of the faith opt for death rather than step on a manufactured image of Jesus, Missionary Martyrs simply chronicles ordinary lives of flesh-and-blood mortals who were deeply scared of the environment in which they operated. Yet, that they chose to stay on because of their faith-inspired love for the people they served remains beyond dispute. “They stayed on” is the central and recurrent theme of Missionary Martyrs.

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