Partisan Church contributing to Zambia’s failure-JCTR

THE Church is likely to be the main contributing factor of failure in Zambia if it continues to take a partisan stance as observed in the past election where the relationship between the church and politics embodied uncertainty and ambiguity, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has said. Speaking during a meeting between the church and other stakeholders dubbed the role of the church and citizens in reconciling the nation yesterday, JCTR board member Father Kelly Michelo, said the church needed to do more in reconciling the country. Fr. Michelo said the church needed to come up with a strategy or approach that would embrace promotion of multi-dimensional programmes of civic education and the formation of social conscience at all levels and encouraging competent and honest citizens to participate in party politics. He said the previous elections were an eye-opener to the church on how young people were used to perpetrate violence which he said had no political or economic value to the country as it was not clear whether such a vice was committed due to unemployment or not. “The paradox is that Zambia has called itself a Christian nation, yet we have observed there are contradictions and extremes on Zambia. Just as religion in general remains a key factor in the failure of many countries like Somalia, Nigeria etc, I would like to argue that the church is likely to be the main contributor to the failure in Zambia. “As we have come to learn during these past elections, the relationship between the church and politics embodies uncertainty and ambiguity. Experience in this country has shown that Christian leaders remain exposed to the actions and opportunistic politicians. The challenge is how to ensure that the church does not become a platform for taking partisan positions on national, regional and international politics so that it can continue to serve as an independent voice of conscience,” Fr. Michelo said.  He said in this year’s election, political violence blinded some of the church leaders who clearly became partisan, thereby making the church looking compromised in the process, adding that the other challenge was lack of voices of reason among the citizens and politicians. He also noted there was need for the church to foster mindset change in rejecting hostility and violence. “For we, Catholics, this year is a year of mercy. It means rejecting the mindset of hostility and violence and embarking on building bridges of peace. For example, the church can begin by advocating to abolish the institution of cadres in our political parties. I am of the strong view that cadres have no political or economic use. It is not easy to know who they represent whether it is the unemployed youths or the political class,” he said.  And speaking when he made a presentation on the role of the church in reconciling the nation, Father Charles Chilufya noted that the problem of reconciliation in Zambia was incredibly complex as there were multiple levels of social divisions that the country needed to overcome with the support of other stakeholders. Fr. Chilufya said while the church had been a force to reckon with in the fight against injustice, the fight against injustice was much simpler than rebuilding the seemingly fractured social relations. He said the process of reconciliation needed a holistic approach by all stakeholders as it could not be undertaken by isolated individuals and church groups.