Silveira House, Jesuit Center for Social Justice and Development is located in Chishawasha, 22 km from Harare CBD along Arcturus road. It is one of the oldest civil society organizations in the Zimbabwe, owned and run by the Jesuit Province of Zimbabwe-Mozambique. The Center offers both soft and hard skills training programmes mainly to the poor in rural districts across Zimbabwe. Participants in such programmes are drawn from all over the country, men, women and youth. The center is home to many leaders from all walks of life including religion, politics, corporates and the youth in schools and other groups.
Silveira House is named after, Fr Gonzales da Silveira a Portuguese priest and the first Jesuit missionary to arrive in Zimbabwe in the 16th century. Established in 1964 by Fr. John Dove, a Jesuit priest, Silveira House is a Catholic Church organization. As the tensions among blacks and white settlers in Rhodesia intensified, the local bishops saw the need and made a request for the establishment of a social center. This mission was entrusted to the Jesuits. The purpose then was to help the youth to become agents of change. This meant training them civics, trade unionism, technical and vocational skills, and organizing their activities.
In its early years, the Centre provided a forum for discussions of strategies to counteract the social and political oppression of the racist Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith. After Zimbabwean Independence in 1980, Silveira House focused more on civic education, to promote the participation of Africans who had been historically excluded from the political and economic system of the country. It also started various projects on skills training, sustainable agriculture, trade unionism and community development.
In the early 2000s Zimbabwe faced a notable collapse of the economic, social and political situation which led to:
- a high rate of unemployment,
- increase of politically motivated violence,
- abuse of human rights,
- hyperinflation and shortage of basic commodities,
- a general dysfunction of social services and infrastructures in the country.
In response to this situation, Silveira House initiated Peace Building projects, Advocacy and Lobbying projects, and strengthened its Civics Education projects as well as Vocational Skills Training projects.
Silveira House is a credible institution that has enjoyed a good name and reputation spanning 56 years. This background has often seen Silveira House gaining access to some places and groups which other civil society organizations are not able to reach in our current sensitive political environment.
Principles of the Social Teaching of the Church
At Silveira House, we strive to build a peaceful and just society, one that promotes, respects and protects the rights of individuals and peoples. The Social Doctrine of the Church is a rich resource that guides reflection and action drawing from the writings of the Church's magisterium, the work of experts in sciences and humanities. Its teachings are consistent with the values of Africans, how we treasure life even as a seed, and how we live in communities conscious of the plight of our neighbor. In our context, the CST are a reminder of who we really are, not a replacement of our moral codes. By reflecting and acting on such principles, we respond to the call of humanity to greater unity with herself, nature and with God, our Creator.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Each day new babies are born and the old are still being care for and valued by us, their loved ones. The biggest threat to human life and dignity in Africa is bad religion and politics. At Silveira House, we combat the two with formation programmes and other interventions that affirm the lives and dignity of Zimbabweans. We are pro-life.
Rights and Responsibilities
Working mostly in communities where some abusive cultural practices and poor governance systems dominate, with creativity and prudence we are working hard to bridge the gap between the old and the new, the bad and the good. Training for Transformation is one of the most important tools in our work, provoking critical thinking and leading communities to self reliance, transparency and accountability.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Zimbabweans are known for being hard workers across the globe. It is sad that this hard work has and is still failing to translate into value or productivity for the workers and their family. We work tirelessly especially with the unemployed, offering skills that can increase their employability or generate extra some income.
Zimbabwe is a very polarized society, with divides across ethnic, political, economic, religious and cultural spheres. Our approach is to bring people to together, to dialogue, creating platforms for antagonistic groups to meet and interact meaningfully and respectfully. We strongly believe that peace and harmony is achievable, and reconciliation among conflicting groups with justice as a necessary prerequisite.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Our approach to social action is very communitarian, recognizing the nature of mankind as a social animal. People who participate in our programmes, though mostly from broken homes (orphans, single mothers and widows), working in groups balanced between men and women, we are determined to promote the family and community.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Oscilating between the high offices, negotiating with the powerful, and running poultry projects with the poor, we see the face of Christ in the most forgotten, hopeless and oppressed. It is a huge challenge, one that requires not just professional skills but human skills, attitudes that engage the other person and accompanies them from their closed world to a better one where all are God's children, equal and loved.
Care for God's Creation
Ours is a land endowed with vast natural resources. However we note with great concern the destruction of forests and wetlands for housing and economic activity, the pollution of water and air in towns and cities, and displacement of peoples from their ancestral lands. In collaboration with other development partners, we advocate for the enactment, and implementation of legislation that safeguards the integrity of creation.
Find out more about the Church and the Society of Jesus in Zimbabwe
Men and Women for Others and with Others