Editor's Comment

Lungu, Pope meeting a show of confidence

PRESIDENT Lungu with Pope Francis and First Lady Esther Lungu (right) at the Vatican in Vatican City recently. President Lungu’s meeting with Pope Francis lasted 25 minutes. PICTURE SALIM HENRY/STATE HOUSE.

ON FRIDAY, President Lungu met Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss various issues ranging from peace to climate change. This meeting is very important in many ways, but none more than the need for our country to truly find its place in the global village.
Pope Francis is a global leader in many more aspects than just being head of the one billion-plus Catholic community worldwide.
And the Catholic Church has always been an integral part of our society, whose contribution to Zambia’s development is beyond measure – unless one can measure the value of education, healthcare and other services over the past decades.
So rather than questioning President Lungu’s visit to the Vatican and his meeting with the Pope, we need to look at the long-term benefits that will result from the visit.
It is hard to measure the value of warm relations between countries, because benefits do not only come in monetary form.
And as citizens of a now globalised world, it is imperative that we think global. We cannot afford to look only in one direction for friends.
Countries around the world – whether rich or poor – have become inter-dependent, and the need to collaborate on various spheres has become all the more apparent, hence the need to strengthen bilateral relations with all countries with whom we share common values.
With a bigger part of our population professing Catholicism, Zambia surely has many common grounds with the Vatican.
And, indeed, there are many other common grounds where we can meet with other countries in this global village; be it in fighting global terrorism, illegal migration or epidemics and viruses that threaten humanity or tackling the issue of climate change.
Pope Francis has been a forthright and ardent champion of the environment, and his strong stance on climate change – the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels – is well known.
Other than that, Zambia needs to step up to the world stage and be counted as a nation that can contribute to the well-being of our global community.
We must be seen as a nation that can offer solutions to the myriad of crises affecting the globe today.
The call by Pope Francis for President Lungu to mediate in the escalating crises in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a clear indication of the confidence not only in our President as an individual, but also in Zambia as a nation, whose democracy has now become a beacon in the region and Africa as a whole.
We should not lose this trust that global leaders have in us, as it has great reward. How we are perceived by the global community has a huge bearing on our development.
Besides, the Pope is not asking President Lungu to do the impossible. No. We have played a mediatory role before in the conflicts in the region. The Lusaka Protocol, signed in Lusaka, October 31, 1994 was a good attempt by Zambia to end the Angola civil war.
Another attempt by Zambia once brought to the negotiating table warring parties in the DRC in Lusaka.
Global leaders hold us in high esteem; we need to look at ourselves through the same lenses and step up to the challenge.
And by assuring Pope Francis that he will uphold peace ahead of the elections on August 11, President Lungu has set a very high benchmark, not only for himself, but for the nation as a whole – and this is one benchmark we have always attained since the dawn of multi-party democracy over two decades ago.
Mr Lungu must not fail to deliver on this high pledge to the global community – neither should we, as a nation, cause him to fail on this score. We must show the global community that we are worthy of the place they have given us.

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