President Lungu arrives at Levy Patrick Mwanawasa Studium , accompanied by Minister Godfridah Sumaili, CCZ President Bishop Dr. Alfred Kalembo for the 70th Anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
File:President Lungu arrives at Levy Patrick Mwanawasa Studium , accompanied by Minister Godfridah Sumaili, CCZ President Bishop Dr. Alfred Kalembo for the 70th Anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The relationship between the state and the church has been a matter of concern from the very beginning of Christianity.It has certainly been both confusing and often contentious. On one occasion particularly when the cooperation of the church is sought we hear the church and the state should work together because they serve the same constituency and on another occasion when the church takes a stand that is against state policy we hear calls for the church to keep to its spiritual lane and leave politics to the politicians.

On 15 April 2018 the Times of Zambia quoted at length President Lungu’s call for the church to be involved in active politics as “ church involvement in politics would uphold the declaration of the country as a Christian nation”. Fast forward to 2019 and the church is being accused of having an agenda of regime change through the national dialogue process.

The phrase “the party and its government” (PIG) became famous in the Kaunda era to demonstrate the supremacy of the party.The party became synonymous with the state or government and to be “anti party” was considered dissidency against the state. The MMD government with its “multiparty dispensation” tried to make a separation between the party and the state but the “supremacy” of the party has been re emphasized under the PF government.Indeed the party Secretary General ranks high in government protocol.

This could explain why state institutions especially local government( eg control of markets,land allocations), the police service and ECZ seem to have lamentably failed in their constitutional mandate and act only at the behest of the party.President Lungu recently called for a change in “mind set” in these institutions in order to be functional.Prior to this when swearing in Deputy Army and Airforce Commanders the President however reminded the officers to respect their superiors in both defence and government hierarchy.The superiors in the government hierarchy are the party functionaries so where does one draw the line between the party and the state! President Kaunda was quoted to have said that he fired Brigadier General Miyanda from the Mechanical Services Branch for “disrespecting” PIG. The General was trying to instill discipline in the use of the government fleet. Do we have men and women of integrity in state institutions today who can carry out their constitutional mandate without fear or favour?

A common Biblical verse quoted to fortify the government of the day is Romans 13:1-7. “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities.For all authority comes from God and those in position of authority have been placed there by God”.This verse should be understood in its proper context in the purpose of government i.e to uphold the law(constitution),protect life and property,defend the country from internal and external enemies etc. The verse does not mean that those in authority can do as they wish or abuse their positions.

A common Biblical verse quoted to fortify the government of the day is Romans 13:1-7. “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities.For all authority comes from God and those in position of authority have been placed there by God”.This verse should be understood in its proper context in the purpose of government i.e to uphold the law(constitution),protect life and property,defend the country from internal and external enemies etc. The verse does not mean that those in authority can do as they wish or abuse their positions.

One Christian view is that the church has the moral responsibility to make the state better by being an influence for the common good.It is this view that has led many to believe that it is only the church that can bring harmony between warring political foes.Those who believe in the supremacy of the party view this as a threat to their grip on power. The apparent unease about the church leading the national dialogue should be seen in this context.

Recent history has clearly demonstrated the important role the church can play to make the state what God has designed it to be.The late Cardinal Jaime L Sin, Catholic Archibishop of Manila fearlessly championed the rights of the poor and rallied with the masses against the repressive dictatorship of President Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s.Above all he prayed for a peaceful campaign against corruption and oppression of the poor. In 1986 Marcos fled after a 4 day peaceful vigil by millions in what was called “people power”. Similary while many politicians and intellectuals fled rather than confront the brutal dictatorship of President Idi Amin, Anglican Archibishop Luwum stood up to Idi Amin and together with 18 other Bishops wrote an open letter protesting at the deaths of many Ugandans.

Unfortunately a week later he was killed accused of alleged complicity in a coup plot.It is sad that at a time we desperately need dialogue, reconciliation, love and forgiveness which the churches have consistently been calling for over the years especially through the Pastoral Letters, some compromised pastors and politicians have chosen to see a church driven national dialogue as a plot for regime change in favour of a particular party.Some churches have politely accepted or canvassed for state financial support (brown envelopes).It is not enough to have a declaration of a christian nation or symbols faith ( House of Prayer, Basilica of Our Lady of Faith at Yamoussoukro etc), the church should be given space to play its critical role to bring hope,comfort to those who are weak and have no voice not in a partisan way.The church has the duty and responsibility to pass judgement on issues that affect the general citizenry (Archibishop T Mpundu).

We need church leaders like Prophet Nathan who stood up to King David and told him he was wrong not because he coveted power but wanted the King to be in good standing with God for the good of the country.

By G. Soneka

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7 COMMENTS

    • Imagine Police IG saying Police Officers who battered unruly PF cadres in Sesheke will be fired. How about the Police Officers who murdered, I repeat the word “murdered” the following Mapenzi Chibulo a defenceless, unarmed and harmless innocent young life, and also Vespers Shimuzila cruelly killed in her room at UNZA. What is going to happen to the Police Officers concerned. Very swift to comment on the Sesheke issue

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    • Insightful article. Our government system falls short with political leaders using state machinery for their political ambitions.Also invoking the church only when it suits them. Those claiming to be christian in leadership further deceive their constituents by reciting Romans 13 out of context that God expects us to submit to their authority;meanwhile they go about plundering the national coffers

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    • I do not trust the Church. It has been infiltrated by Conmen, Defilers, Rapists, Fraudsters, womanisers, thieves etc. I have even stopped going to Church. I would rather pray in my bedroom in the morning.

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  1. Sanlam Life Insurance has been externalising Millions of Kwacha every year through reinsurance mechanism which is a crafty way of transfer pricing. ZRA was sent an anonymous letter giving full details of all transactions for the last 10 years but nothing has been done. ZRA does not seem to be interested in collecting millions of tax evaded by HH and his partners in economic sabotage.

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  2. Religion has become very devisive tool, and it has been promoting corruption, immorality practices such as stealing and promiscuity!!!. Its better to separate the state functions from the church…

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