“Though Zambia has been said to be a God-fearing,
peace-loving, hospitable, democratic and tolerant nation,
the current political mood, events and direction the country
has taken clearly indicates that if ever Zambia was truly
God-fearing, peaceful, hospitable, democratic and tolerant,
we are quickly falling into a nation of intolerance at different
levels of our society.”
This is the observation recently made by the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) Secretary General Fr. Cleophas Lungu when he presented a paper at the just ended national workshop held todiscuss possible solutions to the challenges and crises the countryis facing in relation to the Biblical and Social teaching of the Catholic Church.The workshop which drew participants from all the ten Catholic dioceses of Zambia was held at Saint Dominic’s Major seminary inLusaka from the 15 to 23 July 2013.Fr. Lungu notes in his presentation that, historically, Zambia is often said to be a God-fearing, peace-loving, hospitable, democratic and tolerant country. However, though Fr. Lungu acknowledges this legacy, as partly true because the country does have a past which has demonstrated that 73 tribes can actually live in relative harmony, side by side and thrive. Then there is the hosting of many refugees from some Zambia’s neighbours, with a history of conflict. Clearly, this too is an indication of the legacy of being a hospitable nation. As a nation, Zambia’s various Christian religions and faiths have, in the past, developed unique but commendable ecumenical relations. This can be seen, for example, in the interfaith collaboration within the Churches health Association of Zambia (CHAZ); the Zambia Interfaith Networking Group on HIV/AIDS (ZINGO) and the Oasis Forum –the latter being a platform through which the three Church Mother Bodies (Zambia Episcopal Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and the Council of Churches in Zambia) advocate for the writing of a new and all-embracing republican constitution.
During the presentation, Fr. Lungu lamented the growing hegemony of the current ruling political party and its tendency towards political dominance through what he termed ‘Partocracy’. This ‘partocracy’ in effect is a hankering after the privileges of the One Party Syndrome of the mid-seventies and eighties. Through encouraging many members of parliament to defect from the opposition political parties to the ruling party, it is clear that there is propensity towards a form of governance that smacks of one-partyism which for now Fr. Lungu is calling ‘partocracy’. By defecting to the ruling party, the members of parliament crossing the floor of the house in parliament have occasioned so many unnecessary and costly parliamentary by-Elections.
Turning to cultural Intolerance, He said that there are worrying signs of elements of tribalism, nepotism and regionalism in the nation. With regard to religious intolerance, Fr. Lungu notes that debates around the republican constitution over Zambia being declared a Christian Nation and the death penalty have exposed the fact that some Zambians can be extremely intolerant when it comes to listening to divergent views. One does not have to agree with the views in the public domain yet sometimes even unpalatable views deserve to be heard.Other notable forms of serious intolerance can be observed in the widening rift between the rich and the poor and in matters of gender relations, for example, through cases of Gender based violence in the country.
In conclusion, Fr. Lungu wondered whether the majority of Zambians still believe and live by the national motto of ‘One Zambia, One Nation’.
The Co-ordinator of the workshop Father Boniface Sakala of the Pastoral department at the Catholic Secretariat described the workshop as a major success. Other presenters at the workshop included Biblical scholars, Moral theologians and experts on social justice issues drawn from Caritas Zambia. Topics covered at the workshop included Christian faith response to everyday life in the light of the year of faith, Political intolerance, Vision of God and the Integrity of creation among many others.