Editor's Comment

The Church must re-align

THE Church and other religious bodies should not abuse freedom of expression to insult national leaders, Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili has said.
The call by Mrs Sumaili is indicative of the sad state of affairs in Zambia today. For many, it has become difficult to distinguish between a clergyperson and a politician because their speech and actions are the same. In some instances, some clergypersons seem more political than religious.
Today some clergy have the audacity to stand on a podium and pour scorn on just about anyone including national leaders in a fashion similar to that of opposition politicians.
Some of these men and women of the collar, in the name of freedom of expression, have verbally attacked or abused Government in front of their congregations.
No-one is immune to criticism. In fact, Government must be criticised in order to provide the much talked about checks and balances. But the manner in which this criticism is given says a lot about one’s objective in making whatever remarks.
For long, the Church was looked up to as a sanctuary for resolution of challenges. A source of wisdom and comfort. Today, there is a departure from this line of interaction.
The Church’s role is to hold the country together by ensuring that peace and unity prevail in all circumstances.
The Church’s role is to unite 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 decades, 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 relied upon 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 multi-partism and those of one-party state. Out of the dialogue, President Kenneth Kaunda agreed to change the constitution to allow for multipartism.
That is what is expected by the church not what we are witnessing today.
If the Church becomes political, it then loses its neutrality and ability to give objective guidance to the nation and politicians in particular.
The 2021 elections are fast approaching and we know that during elections political tensions rise. Going by the violence witnessed during some by-elections, Zambia cannot take it for granted that these will be incident-free polls. We hope the elections will be peaceful and this can be achieved if all players do as they say while the Church maintains neutrality.
Now if the Church is getting political or taking sides, it cannot be trusted by politicians and other members of society.
If it cannot be trusted, it means it loses the influence to settle any dispute and bring warring parties to an agreement.
Clearly this is where the church is headed to if it does not quickly re-align itself. That is why time and again we hear politicians and the President in particular counselling the Church on the need to play its role.
However, it is the Church that is supposed to counsel and guide politicians and national leaders, not what is happening. This shows that the Church has left its honourable place.
It is however commendable that the church and political players have decided to hold an indaba to discuss among other issues the welfare of the country ahead of the 2021 elections.
The Church should use this opportunity to get views from politicians on how they have fared and proposals on what needs to change. The Church should also use the opportunity to counsel politicians on the need to embrace values of love, peace, unity, patriotism and tolerance among others.
Ahead of the elections, the Church has a daunting task of neutralising any political tension that may build up.
Most importantly, it is time for the Church to distinguish itself from politics by playing its role of uniting the country instead of driving a wedge among flock.

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