Technology defies tyrants.
Searching this morning for contact details for an Anglican priest in Zimbabwe, various phone calls here in Dublin were of no avail.
Google took me to the Zimbabwean telephone directory, but it offered few clues; the number would probably be under the parish and I had no parish name.
Further Google searches for the priest’s name brought old news stories of his arrest by the Zimbabwean police for organizing a prayer meeting in defiance of the authorities and of his appearance in court.
Google also brought a link to the newsletter of the courageous Mags Kriel who has faced her own persecution for speaking out against the government. In a 2005 edition of her newsletter, there were notes about the priest asking for volunteers to assist at a medical clinic at his church and a telephone number to contact. He had issued an appeal for retired medical staff for the clinic he was running for poor and destitute people.
Three years is a long time in a country that crumbles further each day, and there would be no guarantee that the priest was still in that parish, or that the phone would still be connected, or that people would not be listening to the conversation.
Keying the number into our list of Skype contacts, Skype showed that a call to Zimbabwe would cost 7.2 cent a minute, about 5.5 pence Sterling. I laughed at the thought – I remember British Telecom advertisements in the early 1980s saying that a three minute long distance phone call in Britain cost just 20 pence Sterling. A quarter of a century later, a three minute call to Zimbabwe would cost less.
I would only find out if the number worked by phoning it. There was a ringing tone and then a voice. The line was not brilliant, but it was adequate. The electricity was off there, as it is for eight to twelve hours every day.
The clinic still runs, it is the only care available to the three hundred people who attend.
It was sobering to be in direct touch with someone at the very front line of facing the darkness that Zimbabwe has become.
It was also a reminder that there is no excuse for anyone with a broadband connection to be ignorant of what is going on in our world. The voices are out there, voices of resistance and defiance all around the world, but voices are pointless unless there is someone like us to listen.