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PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu (left) with outgoing Archbishop of Lusaka Telesphore Mpundu during the latter’s farewell mass at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus in Lusaka yesterday. PICTURE BY SALIM HENRY/ STATE HOUSE

Church key to dialogue process

IN A Christian nation like ours, the Church plays a pivotal role in ensuring that peace and unity prevails in all circumstances.
The Church unites society beyond political, ethnic and social divides.
The Church is actually considered to be the conscience of society, which offers guidance on how to exist amid diversities.
For the past five decades that Zambia has ruled herself, the Church has been instrumental in maintaining peace by playing a neutral reconciliatory role among politicians and citizens in general.
Due to its neutrality, the Church has been used by families, communities and politicians to resolve differences.
For instance, at the height of discontentment over the one-party state by many Zambians, the Church spearheaded dialogue between proponents of multipartism and those of one-party state.
Out of the dialogue, President Kenneth Kaunda agreed to change the constitution to allow for multipartism.
When Zambia’s fifth President Michael Sata died in 2014, chaos erupted in the Patriotic Front as many jostled for the presidency.
The differences in the party had deepened to the extent of threatening the continued rule of the party.
It took the Church to reconcile the different factions of the party and subsequently this helped the party to claim victory in the 2015 presidential election under the candidature of Edgar Lungu.
We also remember that prior to the 2016 elections, the country faced unprecedented levels of violence among political players.
The Church was again instrumental in bringing different political parties together for reconciliation and prayer.
As a country, we cannot tell the story of how we have maintained peace for 53 years without mentioning the uniting and reconciliatory role of the Church.
Given this background, it is not debatable whether the Church should be part of the pending dialogue for political parties.
We could not agree more with President Lungu that the Church should join and own the dialogue process for political parties.
President Lungu, as a man who has benefitted from the Church’s reconciliatory role before, understands better its capacity to mediate any dialogue process.
This is why he wants the Church to take its position and own the dialogue process because of its impartiality.
While there is still debate on who, between Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) and the Commonwealth, should lead the dialogue process, the Church needs to be on board to give spiritual guidance based on Christian values.
As rightly noted by the head of State, the dialogue process cannot be entirely left in the hands of politicians.
This is for the simple reason that politicians are all interested parties in this matter.
Whatever position they make will be to safeguard their interests. But the Church comes in to remind the different players on the need to be selfless considering that genuine dialogue is all about give and take.
The Church is also better placed to see things from a bigger picture and advise accordingly.
Above all, politicians are also church members who submit to the clergy.
It should therefore be easy for politicians to heed the advice given during the dialogue process.
The Church should, therefore, position itself to ensure that dialogue for political parties is not just an academic exercise but a process that will bring closure to outstanding political differences.
The Church will also ensure that the resolutions made during the dialogue are in national interest.
We cannot therefore afford to have the Church watching the process from afar. It needs to be fully involved at every stage to ensure that the right process is followed.
The Church will also do well to pray for the success of the dialogue.
On the other hand, politicians should also heed Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu’s counsel to ensure civility in the way they conduct themselves.
The much-awaited dialogue will only succeed if politicians put their personal interests aside.
Other players cannot do much if politicians are not willing to give and take.