Columnists Features

The power of the tongue

EMELDA Musonda

Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
AS POLITICIANS from diverse social backgrounds jostle for elective office in the forthcoming elections, on August 11, it is inevitable to step on one another’s toes.
This is because as the Election Day draws near, emotions and anxieties are also building up among the politicians and supporters in anticipation of what August 11 holds for them.
It is under such intense pressure that our ability to control our tongues is put to a litmus test.
Actually the Bible in James 3:2 says that a man’s self-control is measured by his ability to tame his tongue.
“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”
An American thinker, Napoleon Hill, also acknowledges the power of words, hence his sentiments – “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
The tongue, though a very small part of the body, has potential not only to destroy an individual but tear down nations.
The Bible describes the tongue as a fire and a world of evil among the parts of the body.
And Proverbs 18:21 states that the tongue can bring death or life and those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
The 1994 Rwanda genocide is one example of how the tongue can tear down a nation. The genocide is largely attributed to the carelessness of the tongue, where one politician, Leon Mugesera, gave a speech to 1,000 ruling Hutu party members, describing Tutsis as “cockroaches” and called for their extermination. His careless speech led to the massacre of about 800,000 people and the total breakdown of Rwanda.
The media in Rwanda exacerbated the situation by sending hate messages into the airwaves thereby leading to the explosion of the conflict and within 100 days Rwanda experienced massive killings of the Tutsis.
Mr Mugesera, now a retired politician, was jailed in April this year for the atrocities he committed using his tongue.
The United Nations tribunal in Arusha also convicted three former media executives of being key figures in the media campaign to incite ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis in 1994.
While many people thought to be behind the genocide have been brought to justice and the country embarked on the road to recovery and rebuilding, the scars left by the 100-day horror will never be erased.
Surrounded with so many examples in Africa to draw lessons from, it is worrying to hear some politicians engage in hate speech and making utterances with potential to cause anarchy.
Both social and traditional media are not only witness to this hate speech but are guilty of transmitting it to the general public.
A few months ago one of the daily newspapers published a story of political cadres of an opposition party declaring war. A leader of an opposition is also on record to have declared Armageddon.
Now, when such words are decreed, they have potential to become a curse and haunt the nation.
As a Christian nation we should understand the power of decrees. Job 22:28 states in part: “You shall decree a thing and it shall be established.”
After declaring war, should we be wondering why we have been experiencing so much violence in these particular election campaigns?
The media has not helped much in averting violence as intermediaries. While we understand that the role of the media is to inform society, there’s need to exercise responsibility by weighing the right to know against public interest.
If public interest outweighs the right to know, then media is justified to prevent any harmful messages from filtering to society.
In this case the greater responsibility of the media lies in ensuring that peace is preserved as we transition through this election period.
On the other hand politicians, no matter how incensed they are, should never sacrifice the peace we have enjoyed for the past five decades at the altar of self-expediency.
They should never allow their desire to serve, to override the national interest of safeguarding the country’s reputation as a haven of peace.
For the many careless words that slipped out of our politicians and provided fertile ground for violence to thrive, there was no better way to revoke them than through the national prayers that were held on July 24, 2016.
The Head of State called for national prayers in a bid to find a lasting solution to the violence the country has been experiencing.
It became so evident that the violence the country was experiencing had defied human effort and logic.
Despite the police making some arrests, the Church and electoral commission organising indabas’ for political party leaders to commit to ending violence and pleas from various stakeholders on the need to halt violence, not much progress was recorded in arresting the vice.
It was on this premise that President Lungu decided to lead the nation in seeking God’s divine intervention.
Of particular interest to me as I religiously followed the prayer procession on our national broadcaster was our confession as a country for careless words spoken.
This is because while such words may escape earthly justice, the Bible in Matthew 12:36 warns that all men will give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
It was therefore reassuring to hear the different clergy led by the Head of State seek God’s forgiveness and revoke negative words spoken during campaigns on behalf of the country.
In place of the negative words, Zambia decreed Isaiah 60:18: “No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.”
It is therefore the duty of every Zambian to ensure that from now onwards no careless talk is heard among us, lest we cancel the earnest prayers that were offered on July 24.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail Editorials Editor.

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