Celebrating integrity

It is the small things that say and achieve more than what is touted from hilltops.

All too often, the small things done quietly outside the glare or applause of multitudes achieve more and touch people at their point of need.  The small things grow big and entangle life. 

This was made apparent yesterday at the burial of Cardinal Joseph Medardo Mazombwe who was put to rest at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus in a Mass attended by thousands of people including dignitaries from Malawi and Kenya.

While the Mass may have been ordinary, what is signified was substantial, meaningful, and a clear signpost on the virtues of integrity, wholeness and purposeful life his mission embraced.

The service provided a glimpse into the life of a man who laboured to improve the life and place of the poor and marginalised citizens of Zambia and beyond.

It was during the service that many Zambians learnt of Cardinal Mazombwe’s passion for safeguarding the lives of refugees, homeless and indigent persons.  Zambians were told that he had been a crusader for their lives, and protection of Rwandan refugees.  That he stood in the breach when forcible repatriation was considered in 2006.  That he mediated with the government and the various authorities to rescind the decision and introduce a more voluntary scheme of repatriation.

None of this appeared in the media and none of it was spoken of loudly.

Zambians also learnt that Cardinal Mazombwe spoke out forcibly against Chiluba’s Third Term bid just as he did against the abuse of resources in the face of poverty, suffering and privation of the ordinary Zambians.

Lusaka Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu testified that at every meeting he held with the government officials to discuss the various issues that he felt had the propensity to impact negatively on the lives of the poor and often ignored majority, the Cardinal did not fail to impress the government officials to examine and ameliorate the suffering of the ordinary people by providing quality education, healthcare and social services.

Cardinal Mazombwe was a soft spoken, resolute and determined individual who worked towards the uplifting of the lives of the poor and marginalised quietly but determinedly, and definitely not confrontationally.  He used his position for the common good as exemplified by the construction of the Cathedral of the Child Jesus, which is an embodiment of the spiritual and material growth of the church in Zambia.  He made the construction of the cathedral a community effort in which the rich and poor alike were asked to donate according to their means, the rich with the money they could give and the poor by asking them to donate a brick each.  He worked tirelessly until the dream and vision that he and many others had shared became a reality.

Such was the man and character that was interred yesterday, mourned by thousands from all walks of life all of whom confessing that they knew him from one service they received, sermon they enjoyed, social delivery programme he initiated and participated in and a host of other activities he was engaged in including an establishment of an order of nuns.

The audience was further regaled by revelations that it was the cardinal who many decades prior blessed the cassock  of a young  deacon Telesphore Mpundu, now Archbishop of Lusaka.  Little, obviously, did he know then that he was anointing his successor, but as the saying goes, ‘there is no success without a successor’.

Perhaps our political leadership may have something to learn from dedication to service of humanity and  the affirmation of Gospel values, their entrenchment and eventual  hand over to successors.

Perhaps our paragons of virtue can learn the simple lesson of humility; that there is everything to gain from being simple and yet resolute.

Our leaders  need to learn that there is greatness in simplicity, virtue in integrity, and honour in empathy and compassion.