Zambia
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In the name of the Church…of priests, prelates, padres and politics in Zambia

I MAY be no Pope, the Dalai-Lama, Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Theresa.
Neither am I anywhere close in matters of religion or do I come anywhere near in the gift of the grace of God as Ted Wilson or TD Jakes may have, but, I’m surely no fool not to understand when shepherds of Jesus Christ on earth, those charged with leading his flock to glory slowly begin to covertly and deliberately cause you to misconstrue the good news or divert the flock into a den of Hyenas for their own selfish reasons.
Now, I want to get it very clear before we start this conversation that, I am a firm believer of the Gospel of Christ and in my own right I can testify to the fact that I am an enlightened Christian, a respecter of the faith, who follows trendy Christian events from all facets and sub-groups that form part of the body of Christ especially in this country.
In short, I hold the church, its works and the influence it holds on our culture in Zambia in very high esteem. THE CHURCH and not INDIVIDUALS in churches, not especially those who claim that they can hold a whole sovereign nation to ransom in the guise of speaking for the voiceless.
I am pretty sure we have been following the news events of the past one month or so, how we have been inundated by different versions of the gospel of Christ according to how they understand it (clerics).
For us who are gullible and hungry for the word, that is the beginning of serious miscommunication, a departure from the WORD to some new and dodgy doctrines based on nothing but lies.
Get me right, the clergy is within their right to be champions of social justice, the voice of the voiceless, and generally partners with the government in the provision and delivery of spiritual food; and good living for all. But once the role of some church leaders begins to assume the role of an opposition political party and begins to engage the political leadership as though they were standing on the same political podium, it ceases to be a partnership but a show down.
I also know that the storm brewed in a teacup has somewhat calmed down, however, some of us proponents of the State and the church being a serious partnership in development can merely add our voice of reason.
I will attempt to illustrate with clarity what and how some of those self-serving homilies, if taken as gospel truth, can mislead you and cause you to perish for the lack of knowledge. Not all because some are to point to preaching love to all the people of God.
As a matter of reference, I will take you a few weeks ago when the leader of the 1, 378 billion member strong world-wide Catholic church Jorge Mario Bergogilo otherwise better known as Pope Francis guided on how his charges must conduct themselves, in keeping with their call as good shepherds of the people of God.
As by 2021 estimates, there was also a worldwide strength of 5, 340 priests and 407, 872 deacons.
According to figures released by the Vatican, Africa alone had 256 million Catholics by 2021 estimates representing about 18 per cent of the population.
The clarion call came in the wake of numerous antagonistic, un Christian, unpalatable, statements on especially social media platforms and some which had been uttered by some prelates who in his estimation veered off the collective Good news messages as propagated by the Catholic doctrine and as guided by the Holy Bible.
This guide by the leader of one of the world’s largest Christian groupings sought to place in context one of the most misunderstood roles of what was, even preceding the period in which Jesus Christ lived, in the era of Roman rule. There was a Roman empire reigning over the Middle East, and of course there was the equally strong religious influence predominantly by the Jews, and an emerging Jesus movement which was causing the ruling Roman leadership sleepless nights.
However, Jesus, who was later to be known as the Christ, the rock upon which Christianity was built upon, in one of his clever holy spirit inspired answers to traps of questions set before him, made a very clear distinction about what was the soon to come and reign, kingdom of God and that of Julius Caesar, the reigning Roman emperor.
In Mark Chapter 12 Verses 13, the Bible reads, “and they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk, (14) and they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swelled by appearances but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or should we not? (15) But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, why put me to the test?
“Bring me a Denarius and let me look at it” (16) And they brought one.
And he said to them, “whose likeness and inscription is this?”
They said to him, “Caesars!” (17) Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God’s, the things that are God’s” And they marveled at him. (We will get back to this thought)
The Pope said in part in a statement that was quoted on media networks around the world that: “Tone down on your comments in the media, some are causing division and stoking polemics that harmed the entire church. He addressed to all Catholics and warned of the dangers of fake news and other forms of abuse that had turned people into commodities whose data is sold without their knowledge or concerns
The Pope also condemned polarisation and extremism that had led to ‘digital tribalism’ on social media adding that individuals were locking themselves in silos of opinion that hindered dialogue and often led to violence, abuse and misinformation
“The Christian style should be reflective and not reactive, therefore you should all be careful not to fall into the digital traps hidden in content that is intentionally designed to sow conflict among users by causing outrage or emotional outrage,” the Pope said.
“The problem of polemical and superficial and thus divisive communication is particularly worrying when it comes from church leadership: Bishops and pastors and lay-leaders,” he said
But here comes a man of God, who in his wisdom decides to condemn the mode of communication which the head of State decided to use at a PRESS conference to ultimately deliver the message of hope to the Zambian people.
The emphasis is that the President was at a PRESS conference where he is expected to use the podium to tell his story through the fourth estate.
That Press conference may have been broadcast live to the nation and yonder, so that those who could discern what he was extrapolating could hear it from the horse’s mouth and understand.
For those who may have had difficulties appreciating, could therefore get the messaging through other simpler ways of understanding which were provided for by the ever present national Broadcaster, The Zambia National Broadcasting Services (ZNBC) through seven other local languages simultaneously beaming the address.
In addition, there is an added sign language interpreter in that little corner of our TV sets who is forever gesticulating for those of our brothers and sisters who are hard of hearing
In short, there is a structured manner in which the Head of State indulges with the people of Zambia.
I think that homily by the good Father was filled with plain innuendo and malice.
And anyway, if the ‘church’, and by this, I mean the good priest, why did he not just seek audience with the President and present his views? Now, it became like a showdown, which really should not be. The church can not be a defacto political party. It does not even come close to being one.
When Jesus Christ was being led into a trap to take a position on the tax matter, he made it very clear about the distinction between the Roman governance system and what was and remains God’s Kingdom and authority.
They all remained in awe following the clever answer by Jesus Christ.
To put clarity to the Zambian issue, Bishop Benjamin Phiri of the Arch- Diocese of Ndola also guided and issued a directive that any matters regarding any altercation or statements regarding politics must be channeled through his guidance.
In a statement, the cleric said on Wednesday June 14th 2023 directed members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) that members of the clergy, women and men religious, and the Laity not to make any public statements on the church and state.
Bishop Phiri in his memorandum cautioned that if not well managed, the spat created by the embattled Father Salangeta, the matter had the potential to strain the cordial and consultative relationship which was obtaining between the church and government
Similarly, Earlier, President Hakainde Hichilema sent four senior ministers to engage with the Catholic leadership through Arch-bishop Chama of the Kasama Arch-diocese to find common ground.
The ministers, in a statement issued by Local Government and Rural Development minister Garry Nkombo said government was always ready, as it had always done, to work with the church to foster unity peace and harmony if the country to is see development.
“Government commitment can be seen with the engagement with the church in order to continue augmenting existing partnerships between the church and the government.” Mr Nkombo said at a joint ministerial press briefing at the ministry of Information and Media.
But in an expose’ which shocking detail later emerged, it was because of the mere fact that Father Salangeta was playing to the gallery because of the mere fact that former President Edgar Chagwa Lungu was in attendance and part of the congregation.
It just adds credence to the notion that the whole incident may have been choreographed to the last letter, as a way to politic and surely, use the pulpit to malign President Hichilema; and It backfired big time.
Some of you may not have a clue, but do you know that Father Salangeta has always been an avid disciple of president Lungu, even before the 2021 General election that saw the UPND ushered in office.
He is one of the last two priests who visited Edgar Lungu at State House assuring him that God had spoken and that he would retain the presidency with a landslide.
This God! it was not to be, instead, Hakainde Hichilema stole the day by a go and hang yourself, runaway, landslide win.
There is also a picture which went viral where Father Salangeta was in full swing waltzing with president Lungu at some fund raising Gala dinner.
Without divulging much, that is a little bit more in history about the long standing link between president Lungu and Father Salangeti.
And so you see that when you see men of God angrily storm the pulpit and discredit every little statement that President Hichilema makes, then you can begin to discern what exactly is wrong.
It should surprise you just how during the misrule of the PF under President Lungu, some clerics did not see what hammering the Zambian economy was getting due to rampant corruption. How the country was shriveling and just how mass discontent was the order of the day, yet, non of them ever lifted a hand or word in protest.
None of them ever condemned the atrocities that happened under the watch of president Lungu and the PF. Not even when those hapless people were being shot and killed in cold blood.
They never bothered to protest the innocent killing of people at the hands of PF cadres on the roads, the maiming of our wives and mothers on markets corners, just because they drank from the same copper chalices with the ruling elite of the country
When the economy was nose- diving into the current crisis we are faced with today, thanks to the PF, they looked the other way and seldom did they raise a voice to speak for the meek and weak they today proclaim to speak for.
Having said that, perhaps most of us understand the role that the church plays in the protection of the basic rights of people and how over the years, especially in Zambia, the church has become a sanctuary for those who are downtrodden and overburdened by injustices and poverty.
I also understand very clearly how individual elements in the cover of the church have taken advantage their positions of trust and instead abused the confidence that the weak and feeble minded have in them to advance their own personal agendas.
It is true that some priests want to advance their individual thinking and leanings away from the doctrines and collective understanding of the church. This as seen in the case of Archbishop Banda and Father Salangeti.
The two catholic priests are advancing their views and political affiliation as PF zealots. Why would anyone want to use the name of the Catholic church to threaten a whole nation’s political system into cowing to the whims.
It is one unfortunate reality that is happening in the church world-wide and in Zambia in particular, a blight which requires to be removed before it can engulf society.
Over ten years ago on 23rd March 2010, in this very Column, I wrote an article entitled Zambia: The Great shame of the catholic church.in which I laid down some of the atrocities which happened under the watchful eye of the church.
I brought out some of the shameful deeds that had dogged the long existence of the church such as the sexual abuse of alter boys by priests, sexual relations between Priests and women, including the siring of children by senior clergy and so on
It naturally did not sit well with some whose profiles I had glossed over fitted the bill of the monsters they truly were.
In Europe at about the same time, a purge of those involved in such shameful practices was laid bare with some bishops sent to prison after the victims decided enough was enough and they had to speak out.
The behavior of some of our priests in Zambia is reminiscent to some of those in Rwanda who instead of being bastions of peace and shelter, became demons, the devils incarnate who superintended over the slaughter of thousands.
Prior to that, just at the outset of the civil war, some named Catholic radio stations were used to broadcast hate messages against other ethnic groups; that was a precursor to the war. Once it started, the carnage was unstoppable.
The lessons learnt then are as important and relevant as they are today. Nobody was the loser or winner, just death and destruction.
Our men in robes today seem not to have learnt the important of self restraint and examination before they utter misleading words to their flock, who in many instances believe whatever they preach.
Just as we are alive to the fact that we all fall short to the glory of God, let us not incite society against the leadership when what we preach to them is laced with the poison of a viper.
When what we preach is not what we practice.
There can be no greater sin than inciting the children of God just as a means of attaining your personal goals for your personal glory.
Father Salangeta has exposed his unjustified disdain for a man who merely wanted to communicate his position to people who justifiably needed to know their plight. As rage blinds a man full of fury, they went on rampage distorting the facts as everyone knows it.
Their resolve was just to paint the President black when in fact his intentions were honorable.
But must we use the church to advance our own personal political agendas?
We remain hopeful that there are still some good men of God left out there.
The heartening thing is that both the state and the church realise that it was just one or two prelates bent on driving their personal beliefs and drawing the whole church into some un necessary fight.
Long live the Catholic church and long live Zambia