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Don’t harbour illegal immigrants

IT IS worrying that houses of worship are increasingly becoming refuge for illegal immigrants, some of whom may pose a danger to the security of our country.
We urge churches to stop harbouring members whose presence in Zambia is questionable.
The Department of Immigration and the office of the Chief Registrar of Societies rounded 153 foreigners at a Pentecostal church in Kamwala South in Lusaka last Sunday in a joint operation.
By press time yesterday, the security wings were still screening the detainees to establish the legal status of their presence in our country.
Department of Immigration spokesperson Namati Nshinka said those who will fail to justify their stay by not producing supporting documents will be charged with relevant offences and prosecuted for breaking the law.
The bulk of the captives are Tanzanians, Congolese and Burundians, who were part of the worshippers celebrating this year’s Easter.
While the Swedish Pentecostal Church of Zambia is registered with the office of the Chief Registrar of Societies, it has been established that its branches are not, which is a serious violation of the law.
This is not the first time such an operation has been carried out.
Last year hundreds of foreigners with either expired documents or without any at all were rounded up in various parts of the capital city and shepherded to a stadium where they were screened to establish the legality of their stay in Zambia.
Most of them failed to produce valid documents authorising them to be in Zambia.
As expected, there are bound to be grumblings here and there about the exercise.
Some people will argue that it is wrong to raid a house of worship, but that kind of defence does not hold any water.
Churches should not be harbouring suspected wrong-doers, but preach about respect for the law of the land.
This is because the God they purport to worship is a God of order, who demands respect for civic leadership, including laws.
Even the Bible, which sets the standards for the practice of Christianity, is replete with examples of  records of inhabitants of certain towns and kingdoms.
At the time Jesus was born, the Roman Empire was carrying out a census in all the occupied Israeli towns.
And in the wilderness, after the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea, God ordered Moses to conduct an audit of the tribe, clans and families.
So, regulation of human movement has not started today.
God demands that wherever human beings who call upon His holy name are they observe civic statutes as long as they do not violate His principles and commands.
We are not suggesting that the churches should be screening worshippers at the gates and doors of the houses of worship.
All we are saying is that when the leadership notices a large presence of foreign congregants, it should make an effort to establish if they have valid papers.
This is good for the affected congregants, the church and the nation as a whole.
It is dangerous to do nothing, simply because they are in the church and are potential givers of tithes and offerings.
There could be some bad eggs among the foreigners who may be a danger not only to the nation but the church as well.
In the past, some dangerous robbers have been fished out of these churches.
We, therefore appeal to the leaders of churches to help their members to respect the law of the land to avoid trouble.
There must be a way of keeping an eye on the nationalities of worshippers to ensure there is no breach of the law.
Let us not hide behind Christianity to shield illegality.