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Political-religious implications of campaigns on foster care implementation in Zambia

AN ANCIENT Bemba proverb says, “Ubushiku bufwile insofu nelyashi libapo lyapansofu” (“When an elephant dies, everyone in the village talks about that death”). As the proverb puts it correctly, all ears, eyes and speech this time are tuned to political campaign messages being churned out by politicians for this year’s elections.
Since the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation by the late President Frederick Chiluba in 1991, which was later incorporated into the constitution, Zambia’s political-religious landscape has undergone substantial changes. If we have been listening to the campaigns, probably we may have noticed that in some instances, politicians have been campaigning based on religion as their standpoint. This is not enough because we would like politicians to put into practice what they have publicly professed in this year’s political campaigns, especially by focusing on the desperate situation of the many children who are without care in the country.
Those who are familiar with the message of Jesus Christ will agree that Jesus loved children. Many gospel passages picture Jesus embracing children because in his time, children were among the marginalised people who were part of his mission. Following this spirit, Jesus had a special place in His heart for children and this is why He is quoted to have said,’’ Anyone who welcomes these children, welcomes me’’ (Matth 18:6) and that “Let children come to me’’ (Matth 19:14).
However, the question which still remains unanswered is, what are the political-religious implications of this year’s election campaigns on foster care? The main implication is that, if politicians are campaigning on the basis of being God-fearing people, then they ‘must live the ‘talk’. In view of the plight of orphaned and vulnerable children and many other children who are without care, Jesus wants politicians to be champions of foster care programmes in the country. Above all, Jesus also says, ‘It’s not those who say Lord, Lord who will enter the kingdom of God, but those who do the will of my father’ (Matth 7:21). Therefore, for Jesus, in our era, it would not be enough to claim to follow Him or to be God-fearing without concretising that special love for children by implementing childcare programmes such as foster care in the country. Formal foster care is care offered to a child who has been formally placed in the care of a fit person for a specific period of time by a court upon recommendation from a juvenile inspector.
Therefore, politicians who are genuine God-fearing people should endeavour to put the rights of children who are without care and those at risk of losing parental care first in all their campaigns and programmes because children are among those whom Jesus referred to as the downtrodden or ‘little ones’. As such, politicians should translate their talk of being God-fearing into action by implementing foster care programmes in the country.
Our conviction as SOS Children’s Villages Zambia is that politicians in this year’s election campaigns will demonstrate that commitment towards children by taking into consideration the needs of thousands of children in the country who have lost parental care and those who are at risk of losing parental care. Here we are talking about caring for over 13,000 children who are on the street, 1.2 million orphans and vulnerable children and about 20,000 child-headed households. Politicians, we are waiting to hear from you on your commitment to provide foster care grants to foster parents who do not have the financial muscle to look after those children who are without care.