Editor's Comment

Church pivotal to national growth

THE Church in Zambia has since pre-independence been a strong partner for the country’s development.
The Catholic Church, United Church of Zambia, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Reformed Church in Zambia, among others, have been strong drivers of development by building places of worship, schools and health facilities.
Even new churches such as the Gospel Outreach Fellowship have also been partnering Government by taking care of orphans, provision of health services through mobile outreach in far-flung areas, fighting HIV and AIDS through counselling and testing as well as administering anti-retroviral therapy.
The Muslims have also been helping in their own way, a contribution which cannot be ignored because it has helped the needy, as well as the provision of the much-needed services.
Therefore, when President Edgar Lungu calls for strong partnerships between Government and the Church with an appeal for citizens to engage in initiatives aimed at actualising the country’s development agenda, he is not re-inventing the wheel.
This is based on the realisation that while the institutions of Government are there to serve people, their reach in terms of structures has limitation compared to the Church which has establishments even in the most remote of areas.
It is well known that in areas like Twingi in Kapata area of Samfya, there was no secondary school and the only school was established by the Catholic Church, which had set up a mission post there.
The Church reaches where Government is sometimes conspicuously absent.
Because of the training the priests and pastors undergo now, they are able to represent many facets of helping locals to understand government procedure and functions and help people to interface with Government.
Further, churches preach hope and not despair, and are self-mobilised. There is a sense of service to each and every member of the community.
Churches are the first respondents to all social challenges or difficulties that befall the communities in which they serve, as would be seen how they in the past established leprosariums in communities hit by leprosy and home-based care activities where HIV and AIDS patients became a burden for families to handle.
The parishes or church communities also come up with their own initiatives. President Lungu wants renewed partnerships but with active involvement of citizens in the country’s development agenda.
The President’s call is very important because it promotes peace and national development.
Almost all citizens belong to a church, anyway. So, if in our churches the messages of self-actualisation are emphasised, they could have huge impact on national development.
Churches should as much as possible preach peace and encourage members to work hard in a truthful and honest way.
Government should also promote certain empowerment initiatives through the churches.
First and foremost, individuals must realise that they can do a lot for themselves. There is a positive trend of village banking.
This survives on peer-to-peer trust. Trust is the biggest ingredient in building cohesive human co-existence.
Therefore, deliberate government efforts in supporting community-level initiatives would go a long way in developing strong self-supporting communities.
Small Christian communities or sections could be entry points to support members if need be. Government could support such entities based on their choice of venture.
While the Church has been offering traditional support such as education, health and spiritual growth, there is need to start looking outside the box.
At the end of the day, both Government and the Church serve the same people. And the call by the President is welcome and must be supported as well as actualised.
Therefore, President Lungu is right but there is need to sit down and design a model or programme of how Government will partner with the Church on various fronts of delivering services and improving people’s livelihoods.
There is need to find a way to walk the talk and have mechanisms of seeing to it that the partnership is mutual and well saddled to trigger citizens’ participation.
There is nothing more encouraging in the world of development than investing in the opportunities that empower people at the point of their own ingenuity or initiative.

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