PATHFINDER NUMBER 1
BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS – BUT WHO WILL BE THE PEACE MAKER FOR ZAMBIA?
[By Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda – 5th July 2017]
FOUNDATION AND CONTEXT OF THE STATEMENT
The current wrangle regarding the search for unity and peace in our nation, Zambia, deserves further attention. I express my opinion as to how to extricate ourselves from the self-created quagmire! Creating unity and peace in the nation today is turning out to be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. There are so many interest groups and so many places to search but we are failing to agree as to where to start the search from. Everyone who is searching believes they are on the right path and that the others are going the wrong way. For starters I have elected to address the group identified as “Believers” or more accurately “Followers of Jesus Christ”. I have targeted Christians because of the Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation. This group covers churches of various denominations spread across the country and hence is strategically placed in the superstructure comprising this young nation.
I have thus uncharacteristically called on the bible to my aid to assist me to reach out to all Believers to speak out against misleading statements in the public domain. Uncharacteristic because I try to avoid ‘using the Lord’s name in vain’ while avoiding ‘quarrelling’ with non-Christians. This is because in this statement I do not wish my message to be distracted by disagreements and/or arguments about whether God exists or not; I am addressing those who already accept things of God as I have sensed that many Christians have put aside, perhaps without realising it, the principles that they espouse as followers of Jesus Christ. I am not preaching because I am NOT a preacher; but as a concerned Christian I just want to borrow and paraphrase some teachings from the Holy Bible, and use them as tools to aid us in the search for reconciliation, unity and the resultant peace that will surely flow if we apply the needed biblical principles.
WHY FOCUS ON CHRISTIANS ONLY?
At this stage Christians are quarrelling yet they should NOT, especially on petty and even personal grounds, when the nation’s well-being is at stake. Quarrelling leads the issues at hand to become denominational disagreements and tend to blur the issues while threatening the very existence of our nation. So at a time such as this it is imperative for Christians to be reminded of their prophetic role and mandate. I am aware that the value standards set by our Christian leaders are not easy to keep or follow. But at least we must try hard, using the Bible as the guide, which I believe has answers to all our earthly problems and all that we aspire for in life, including leadership and other governance issues. No matter how well we know the scriptures let us always remember to APPLY the principles, and NOT JUST RECITE THEM parrot wise and yet using them as slogans for attracting votes!
THE STARTING POINT FOR THE SEARCH FOR THE PEACEMAKER
Jesus said ‘if you love me obey my commands’. Since we declared Zambia a Christian Nation, surely this is and must be the starting point in our efforts to reconcile and unify the disparate groupings in our nation. The three Church Mother Bodies that made a statement on their view of the State of the Nation have been condemned by some for not consulting. Biblically since when did a prophet consult, as we heard from Catholic Bishops Banda and Phiri, as well as Evangelical Bishop Peter Ndhlovu, Reverend Pukuta Mwanza and ICOZ Bishop Masupa? I am afraid that these shepherds have missed the point. Prophets of yore never went to consult Nebuchadnezzar; they just delivered their message and left him to his designs to be personally answerable for whatever!
The President of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, himself a professed Christian, castigated the Church Mother Bodies for allegedly spreading confusing or what he called mixed messages; whether this is true or not is not the issue; he has spoken and his speech has had its own impact as he has been supported by some sections of our community and criticised by others. Who then will be the Peacemaker since the Church has been disqualified by the President?
For me the starting point is for all Christians or Believers to start seeking for answers from the Word of God, the Bible. Let all Believers revert to it and see how easy it will be to remove the spirit of confusion distracting our attention from key national issues but directing us to be making attention-seeking and vote-catching pronouncements.
RED HERRINGS – THE GAME OF DISTRACTION
I say that this is a time for dialogue instead of dodging serious national issues! We are being distracted by a carefully designed strategy: the powers that be have thrown in the pot two twin Red Herrings, namely RECOGNITION and AGENDA which have caused division, confusion and distraction among Believers. Some naïve Christians have accepted the misleading presentations that RECOGNITION and AGENDA are the cure all for the problems confronting the President. A lot of time has been spent debating, NOT dialogue, but RECOGNITION and AGENDA; this may be alright for politicians but certainly unproductive and retrogressive for Christians.
I have found no provision in the Republican Constitution that supports President Lungu’s insistence that he must be “recognised” by all Zambians. I challenge him, as a lawyer, to indicate which part of the Constitution or any other laws that he is relying on as a pre-condition for him to hold dialogue with fellow Zambians
The closest I can get to define a “Red Herring” is to paraphrase the warning in the Bible that “the Devil is not just a liar but is the Father of Lies”. He, she or it is the master of the Divide and Rule tactic. Dividing your perceived opponents makes sense so politicians and warriors use it a lot. When the Church says what does not sit well with those in power they are perceived as enemies of the regime and hence are treated as such. When a regime labels anyone or anything as an enemy they strive to crush such an enemy by unleashing their sycophants upon that enemy. Zambians may have forgotten that once the life of Catholic Bishop Lungu of Chipata Archdiocese was once threatened by the then Republican President for his homily! Today when the Republican President publicly labels the Church in a negative way he unwittingly or by design evokes vitriolic sentiments harboured by those close to him and they come out blazing in his defence. There is evidence of such statements over time since President Lungu started calling for reconciliation and unity. What he has said and how he has acted have almost always contradicted each other.
I have found no provision in the Republican Constitution that supports President Lungu’s insistence that he must be “recognised” by all Zambians. I challenge him, as a lawyer, to indicate which part of the Constitution or any other laws that he is relying on as a pre-condition for him to hold dialogue with fellow Zambians. The nearest guide to me on recognition in our government system is our electoral process: it allows citizens under the One Person One Vote system, to vote for the one they ‘recognise’ and hence vote against the one they do not ‘recognise’. In any event the President does not need to be recognised for him to govern. This stance is petty and a fallacy that discloses an inferiority complex which is also a distraction from real issues. Christians must pray against this spirit of deception and confusion.
Another fallacy is the President’s declaration that he cannot attend a meeting without an agenda. For goodness sake we all are as a family; one does not insist on an agenda when facing his parents, brothers, sisters and other family members. My conclusion is that the President may have a secret agenda which he does not want disturbed, and hence is looking for an excuse to avoid meeting fellow politicians who may raise issues he is afraid of hearing about. Remember Job (‘what I was afraid of overcame me’)!
WORDS: THE BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE OF DIALOGUE
President Lungu has in the past called for reconciliation and unity while at the same time declaring that there will be no dialogue UNLESS AND UNTIL he is recognised by UPND President Hakainde Hichilema as Republican President and/or an agenda is made known to him. These two pre-conditions mean that there will be neither reconciliation, unity nor peace in our country. That is to say he has said, without saying so, that as a Christian he does not want dialogue; so the nation must get ready for NO RECONCILIATION, UNITY OR PEACE – here is why from a biblical perspective!
‘To dialogue’ means to talk, to have a conversation with another human being because humans are the only specie that naturally uses words to communicate with each other. We are blessed with the ability to make sense from words and engage in dialogue to try to persuade others to see our point of view while at the same time being ready to listen to the other view. On this score our President has set a bad example by refusing to talk to other political leaders unless they recognise him and provide an agenda. The President is double wrong for refusing to dialogue. This makes his whole message of reconciliation, unity and peace hollow.
The Bible declares that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Of course Jesus is also the Word. I borrow the concept to show that without words little action can take place. There is power in dialogue because those who have grievances present them through dialogue (even the Deaf and Dumb use words to communicate, relying on symbols that create words); those who have authority to resolve issues resolve them via dialogue. In fact the most important mandate of Christians, the Great Commission, cannot be fulfilled without dialogue! One cannot evangelise without talking. Even to refuse to meet someone you have to pronounce some words. So why are some Christians afraid of dialogue? The Book of Amos says “How can two walk together unless they are agreed?” I take this as a command and not a question. So I add my own ‘enhancement’ of this powerful guidance to assist President Lungu, and I say “How can two agree unless they dialogue – surely they must talk in order to agree!”
Discerning Believers must not fall prey to political tactics of ‘Divide and Rule’. While I support calls for unity, peace and reconciliation in Zambia I do not agree that such a meeting must be based on pre-conditions set by any of the participants. I disagree with our President that a family meeting is always premised on a pre-set agenda. He met the Catholic Pro Nuncio after refusing to meet Zambians. I suggest that first there be an informal meeting with political party leaders in private and organised and funded by the Government, NOT ZCID or any other non-government institutions. It could be limited to party leaders with, say, two or three other persons for each party but lasting for about half a day (say three to four hours, including a social interaction after the meeting). When the President makes his frequent visits to chiefs I know that there is no formal agenda; they camouflage it as a “courtesy call”. Agenda or no agenda the dialogue should take place.
In conclusion I say that the statement by the Three Church Mother Bodies was timely and I support it with a minor reservation. It should be treated as an early Warning Message. I say to all Christians who have access to President Lungu to pray with him and persuade him to agree to meet his fellow Zambian leaders of political parties as a matter of urgency, without pre-conditions.
A CONCERNED CITIZEN
[5TH JULY 2017]