Dear Mr President: On the Zambia We Pray For
It saddens me and many other concerned citizens that a mother and wife, Mrs Mutinta Hichilema, was turned away from seeing her husband at maximum “correctional” prison in a so called Christian nation. This note seeks to share a number of questions regarding the past that we are constantly enacting in the now.
Zambia prides itself as a Christian nation despite much contestation about the meaning and implication of such assertion not only for governance but also for the wider religious freedoms as provided for in the constitution.
Given the recent stress on being a Christian nation, I would like to appeal to the central focus of the said faith namely the person of Jesus and what God has done through Jesus the Christ as recorded in the Christian scriptures and most illumined in the symbols of the cross and resurrection. These illustrate God’s victory over evil and point to a deeper hope in our constant struggle against evil of all sorts.
Against such a background, I wonder what Jesus would say to you and the large populous that has bought into the rhetoric of a Christian nation and more recently a Christian President? Furthermore, what would Jesus say to those church leaders walking the corridors of power? It needs not be stressed that any democracy is undeniably a statement that the real power lies with people. This however becomes merely cosmetic democracy when citizens are steadily fashioned into silence. In such a context, religion so easily becomes a sedative to keep thinking minds from analysis and critique. Moreover, when what ought to be seen as service wings are arguably reverting to forces, people become slaves of fear and eventually postpone if not to abandon their emancipation. What legacy of democracy do you wish to leave for the country of my birth Mr. President?
Sir, how does it feel to be Christian President in a Christian nation in which the family of a citizen, your fellow politician, one Hakainde Hichilema, is undergoing overwhelming psychological torture owing to what has been going on to their loved one for nearly 60 days now? Sir, I have been asked by friends whether or not Hakainde Hichilema’s arrest is a political witch hunt! I promised them that I would ask since their question is political and not legal? How do you feel leading a country that is slowing witnessing intolerant politics? Is this the kind of Christian nation you envisage and pray for? Your Excellency Sir, I humbly submit that we rather rethink the Zambia We Pray For! I join others praying for a prosperous Zambia, tolerant leadership, truly independent wings of justice and national security; a flourishing democracy, with a mosaic of political expressions, a truly United and independent nation state devoid of cheap political propaganda that mocks some parts of the geographical entity Zambia so that We may All truly emboss the colonial legacy of the geographical entity for the well-being of all without any form of discrimination.
Your Excellency, such a Zambia requires that we give space to different voices and embrace more affirming and progressive political discourse. Your Excellency, don’t you pray for a Zambia in which politicians will carry their “weapons” in their heads, namely that their unique contribution will reside in robust and informed debate regarding legislature and a dedication to the service of mother Zambia and thus shape a renewed political discourse. Such discourse will find expression not only through the party you lead and among your overt political supporters but also through many other political parties and social movements including the UPND and its leadership. This said, I beg your indulgence Your Excellency, just how may I tell the story of your leadership of this our great nation. Surely, the Zambia we pray for is inconsistent with any form of tyranny; rather it is a prosperous Zambia, with hard working citizens, free media, assured freedoms of association and expression. Yes, I agree freedom comes with responsibility. But who shoulders such responsible? Lastly Sir, don’t you agree with many that your creation of the ministry of religious affairs and national guidance is a sure waste of national resources.
Don’t you find it rather shocking that the minister in charge of this ministry speaks of the mandate of the ministry as one of actualising and translating “the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation into practical, workable and realistic interventions”? This is not only impossible but also illusory. What theological warranty is there for a government ministry to claim jurisdiction for the “overall policy and legal framework in all matters pertaining to Zambia as a Christian heritage.” This is not only surprising but also highly questionable. Do we really need such a ministry? Some of the stake holders have variously expressed their nuanced views in this regard including the CCZ and the Catholic Bishops. Dear Mr President, what Zambia should we Pray For? A failed state? Surely not! An intolerant nation? Far from it! I bet you agree with me, neither of these? If so What Zambia must we pray for? What political culture must we nurture! I argue that we need an affirming and embracing nationalism that will not nurture narcissism.
Dr. Teddy Chalwe Sakupapa