‘Protestants are too divided, Muslims too few to be on constitution team’

‘Protestants are too divided, Muslims too few to be on constitution team’

Prayer warriors at work

By Maurice Makalu

It has become fashion for people to cry “discrimination” in every decision the President makes. Riding on the adage that “there is no smoke without fire,” many people have made a habit of seeing their own smokes and accusing the President of causing the fire.

And Zambia being a democracy where freedom of speech reigns, the voices of these “false smokes” are getting louder as if the fire were real. Opportunists, alarmists and sensationalists are riding the wave, gaining political capital and publicity out of these false smokes.

Feeling “hated” or that another person is “jealous” of you is a pervasive illusion in the human psyche which has made others declare: “God hates me; what wrong have I done?” When you give a street kid K1,000 and another asks you and you say your money has finished, that street kid will feel “hated.” Some have even failed exams for what they believed was “hatred” from teachers.

Therefore, when somebody THINKS you hate them, often it helps to give some facts and figures, a kind of objectivity, to help explain your decision. It is not a guarantee that they will see that you truly do not hate them. For all intents and purposes, they have not seen God’s love for them despite the many facts and figures He has given in creation. But it helps to just put the facts and figures, which hate nobody, out there. You can only pray that reason will eventually prevail and they will see their false smokes for what they are and rise above them.

The latest example of the false smokes of discrimination is the constitutional panel of experts, where some have seen the smoke of hatred of non-catholics on the part of the President. They are arguing that having three Catholic bishops is discriminatory to other churches or religious groupings.

I would like to show why that is not the case, why the panel shows no hatred on the President’s part.

In terms of Christian groupings, who do you say has been left out? Who is hated? Is it SDAs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Apostolics, Anglicans, Wesleyans, Reformed Church, Methodist Episcopals, Salvation Army, Presybeterians, Brethrens, Faith and Holy Tabernacles, or Pentecostals?

The list is endless, exceeding even the 20 allowed on the panel. Do people expect all of them to be included? Or say he included SDAs, would that suddenly make him non-discriminatory? Or perhaps Baptists will cry foul still?

Some people are saying Protestants have been discriminated against. They think that because Protestants broke away from Catholicism and the term ‘protesting’ sounds acrimonious, people can easily believe that indeed Sata hates Protestants, like he “hates” opposition political parties.

First of all, who are Protestants? What is Protestantinism?

Wikipedia says, “Protestantism is one of the three major groupings (CatholicismOrthodoxy, and Protestantism) within Christianity.”

Religion facts at www.religionfacts.com further says that, it is “A general branch of Christianity encompassing numerous denominations and a wide theological spectrum ranging from conservative to liberal. It started in the 16th century.”

Examples of denominations given include: Presbyterians, Reformed, Church of Scotland, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, Lutherans, and Baptists.

So when somebody says, “Sata hates Protestants,” they mean he hates these churches. How possible is that when he was recently ridiculed in some sections of the media for acknowledging a Protestant leader in the traditional way of kneeling and kissing the leader’s ring?

And because the list of experts does not mention these denominations by name like it does catholic, all Protestants out there: Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, etc will believe they are hated by the head of state, as a major branch of Christianity, when in actual fact they are not.

Other people are saying include the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ). What is EFZ?

On their website, www.efzsecretariat.org, EFZ is “A mother body of Christian denominations, local churches, para church organizations, mission agencies and individuals. EFZ was established in April 1964.” Their list of 225 members includes Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, Redeemed, Salvation Army, Apostolic, children care and HIV/AIDS help desk, and many other Pentecostal “ministries” and fellowships including ZAFES, scripture union, Campus crusade for Christ and Zambia Nurses Fellowship.

In actual fact however, most of the 225 members are one-man show Pentecostal ministries, headed by men of God who have enriched themselves from the offerings, tithes and gifts of their church members.

They are preachers who say, “Bring your tithes and offerings to the Lord, so that there is plenty in the Lord’s house; sow a seed and you shall prosper.” When people do that, they discover the pastor alone prospers, while they stay poor. And yet both pastor and members are in the SAME house of the Lord.

In my humble view, this is the same as Gregory Chifire saying, “Rupiah has brought development, vote for him;” while Zambians are suffering and he is enjoying. Can you surely say Chifire represents Zambians?

What if he joined with Chanda Chimba and Edwin Lifwekelo to form a national NGO, would they then be considered to represent Zambians? What if there were 10,000 of such people? Would that be “national” interest or it would just be false smokes, which happen to be loud because of freedom of expression and TV coverage?

This might appear like judging others and declaring them evil, when we are all human who should not judge. I am sorry if it appears like that. I just think that EFZ represents no easily identifiable and coherent section of society.

Yes they represent their various ministries, but those are the same ministries where they themselves are getting “blessed” while the larger majority of their congregations wallow in poverty. So if in their own congregations they are putting themselves first, can you then argue that at EFZ they will put others first?

“Charity begins at home,” they say.

The EFZ participated in the NCC where the nation lost money. Some of their members prophesied that God had allowed Chiluba a third term. If EFZ represent a coherent section of society, why these “errors” from their members? Or is it EFZ itself and not individual members making the errors?

Or if we say we are a Christian nation who must forgive, why then should we oppose Xavier Chungu’s appointment?

Further more, if EFZ represent their various individualistic ministries, how then can we say ALL the 225 organizations have been represented when we put one individual from a certain ministry on the panel?

Of course there are other members in EFZ like Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals, Salvation Army, etc who do not have this tendency of “self enrichment” in God’s name, even to the extent of ripping off our national resources. But even under Council Churches of Zambia (CCZ), which is represented on the panel, there are Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals, Salvation Army, etc.

Why should a Salvation Army, Methodist, Lutheran, etc under EFZ feel hated and discriminated against, while the same is represented under CCZ?

I personally think they do not. They feel they are one and the same in Christ and so they are represented, including by Catholics. So the people seeing discrimination are the ones who have something wrong with them.

CCZ, www.ccz.org, is a 22 member, “ecumenical umbrella organization of mainline Christian churches that seeks to promote cooperation and fellowship between Christian churches and organizations in the nation. It was founded in 1914.”

This is where you find such churches as: UCZ, United Methodist Church, Anglican, Othordox, Presbyterian Church in southern Africa, etc. All these and others are represented on the panel in Rev Mutale from CCZ.

According to Wikipedia, quoting the International Religious Freedom Report – Zambia 2010, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Zambia, in terms of religion, 87% Zambians are Christians.

On 20th April 2011, Times of Zambia quoted the Vatican Ambassador to Zambia, Nicola Girasoli, that, “The Catholic Church consisted of about 30% of the population in Zambia.” (http://allafrica.com/stories/201104200424.html)

So we can roughly say of the 87% Christians in Zambia, 30% of that is Catholic, 57% Protestant. One can therefore use a blanket statement and say, “Sata hates Protestants for giving 75% of church seats on the panel to Catholics.”

But that is being unreasonable and impractical.

We have seen above that Protestants are not one, two, three “coherent” sections of society. You have Protestants in both CCZ and EFZ.  And obviously, the fact that we have two protestant mother bodies means even amongst them, there is more “protesting.” It is even possible that there are Protestants outside these mother bodies. Therefore it is practically not possible that Protestants can be “represented.” They are just way too wide, divided, varied and numerous.

In my view therefore, CCZ is enough representation. It has both Orthodox and Protestantinism, the other two major groupings of Christianity. It is a pity EFZ has been left out but I think it is irresponsible, alarming and sensationalism for anybody to say, “Sata hates non-catholics” because of that.

What about Muslims?

Wikipedia, quoting the International Religious Freedom Report – Zambia 2010, says, Muslims AND Hindus make 1% of our population. (The other 12% is indigenous Zambian beliefs).

The Islamic Supreme Council of Zambia, through its Council Secretary General, Sheik Shaban Phiri, said, “The Technical committee (on the constitution) is not representative of all religions, which may be a threat to national unity.”

Surely, what is 1%? If all 1%s must be represented on the panel, how many will be there. And we have to include a Hindu too, because Muslims are not Hindus.

Besides we are a Bible-inclined nation; when we “leave out” Muslims, that is not hatred against them, it is majority rule. Christians are left out in Islamic countries like Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, etc. They do not talk “threats” to national unity.

And is it only the exclusion of a religious 1% that is a threat to national unity? What about the other “1%s” in miners, students, youths, women, teachers, bus drivers, marketers, trade unions, etc? Why are they not talking threats?

Again these alarms are just false smokes being projected on the President. People are intolerant and they are blaming the President for it. That is not fair.

Sheik Phiri is already on record, in the Zambian Watchdog article of 20th November, 2010 of threatening to cut the nose of the Registrar of Societies for allegedly meddling in Islamic Affairs. These threats are not necessary. (Read article here:  http://www.zambianwatchdog.com/archives/9838).

Clearly, from the afore going, people are seeing their own smokes and accusing the President of causing the fire. This is irresponsible and uncalled for. It is contrary to the spirit of One Zambia One nation.

Zambia is our nation all of us. There is no need to feel “hated” or that others are “jealous” of you when you are left out of ONE opportunity to make a contribution. Everybody will have an opportunity for public submissions at a later stage.

You can express your disappointment for being left out yes, but it is totally irresponsible to go further and accuse the head of state of hating you. That is arrogant. We should not encourage such a culture among us, whether from religious brothers and sisters, tribesmen, gender mates, political party mates, age mates, etc.

I know the president did not go through all this bother of “facts and figures.” I am sure he does not think of EFZ the way I have put it here. He just used his wisdom and made his judgment. People have a right to disagree with that judgment, he is their president after all; and maybe he can reconsider. But let us all desist from sensationalized allegations of being “hated” by the head of state, when we disagree with his judgment. We do not need to issue threats. I believe even in OUR disagreement, there can be unity, respect, peace and above all patriotism. We are disagreeing because we love our country; so let us not be the first to project hatred, anger and threats in our disagreements.

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