Catholics and Protestant Churches in Zambia against new Ministry of Religion
Opposing the government's move, the two Church bodies said they found the creation of a new ministry of religious affairs unnecessary and imprudent.
“In view of the various financial and economic challenges our country is currently facing, we neither see the creation of the said ministry as a top priority nor a prudent decision. After all, we believe that Zambians want their country to be a democracy rather than a theocracy,” the statement reads in part. On these grounds, CCZ and ZCCB stand opposed to the creation of the new ministry
Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, last week appointed Reverand Godfridah Sumaili, a Pentecostal pastor of Lusaka’s Bread of Life Church as the new head of the ministry of religious affairs. Sumaili was subsequently nominated Member of Parliament, by Lungu. The Zambian parliament still has to ratify the appointment and the creation of the new ministry. Observers in Lusaka seemed to regard the ratification as a formality.
Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) Executive Director, Reverend Pukuta Mwanza, on behalf of Pentecostal Churches, last month, praised President Lungu’s initiative saying it would “promote Christian values and give more meaning to the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation.”
On 4 September, while visiting State Lodge’s Divine Mercy Catholic Parish, in Lusaka, President Lungu told parishioners that the Church in Zambia should not be threatened by the creation of the ministry of religious affairs. He said the ministry would harmonise State-Church Relations.
Former President Frederick Chiluba in 1997 established the Religious Affairs desk with Rev. Peter Chintala as Deputy Minister at Statehouse. The religious desk suffered because of unclear terms of reference and its inability to garner support and consensus from Churches. Eventually, it was quietly phased out.
(Fr. Paul Samasumo, Vatican Radio)
Find below the full statement of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) and the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB).
A STATEMENT ON THE POSITION OF THE COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN ZAMBIA (CCZ) AND THE ZAMBIA CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS (ZCCB) ON THE PROPOSED CREATION OF THE MINISTRY OF NATIONAL GUIDANCE AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS
Dear brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, the people of God. As leaders of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) and the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), formerly ZEC, we hereby wish to state our position with regard to the proposed creation of the Ministry for National Guidance and Religious Affairs.
Firstly, we believe that the common denominator and our mutual rallying point between the Church and the State is that we are both concerned about the common good and the well-being of God’s people. As such, we see the need for the two to trust each other, engage in genuine dialogue and work as partners in promoting the development of its peoples, especially the poor. This requires sustaining a healthy Church-State relationship, with the Government not favouring only those groups that praise every decision it makes and every plan it follows. On our part, we shall continue to be non-partisan and respectful while playing a vital role of being a voice of conscience calling a nation to order, especially in the aftermath of the 2016 general elections that have incurred on our people scars of violence, division, tribalism and hatred. 2
Secondly, and notwithstanding our readiness to collaborate with the government of the day in our common pursuit for national development, our position is that the Church and State should be and continue to remain separate. In view of the various financial and economic challenges our country is currently facing, we neither see the creation of the said ministry as a top priority nor a prudent decision. After-all, we believe that Zambians want their country to be a democracy rather than a theocracy. Not only that, we believe that as churches and other faith communities, we have thus far been able to exercise our God-given mandate and meaningfully contribute towards national development without having such a ministry. Therefore, both CCZ and ZCCB stand opposed to the creation of the above mentioned ministry.
Thirdly, we stand by the biblical principle as clearly taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, who declared: "Well, then, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God" (Mark 12:17). Again, our Lord and founder defined our prophetic mandate when he proclaimed: “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour” (Luke 4:18; Cf. Isaiah 61:1-2). In other words, the Church derives its authority, mission and structure from God and this must not be confused with temporal order of political governance.
Fourthly, we take this opportunity to reassure our membership that, we the said Church Mother Bodies, will not be intimidated in exercising our God-given mission of being the conscience of the nation and exercising our prophetic ministry of calling for social justice following the example of our Founder, Jesus Christ. At the same time, we commit ourselves to continue being credible and reliable instruments for promoting a culture of dialogue, reconciliation, justice, unity, development, respect for divergent views and peace in Zambia.
May God bless you all and bless our nation Zambia
Signed on 19th September 2016
Most Rev. T-G Mpundu, ZCCB President
Rev. Dr. Alfred Kalembo, CCZ President