By Kahalu Ngombo
With 87 percent the total population Christian, Zambia is indeed a Christian nation. But those who prefer to think of themselves as Christians in a Christian nation are not sitting pretty. They are doing battle with those who find the Christian nation label repulsive.
Its been a long-running battle which began soon after President Fredrick Chiluba’s momentus declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation back in 1991. On one side are pentecostals, some charismatics and some evangelicals. The other side has the Roman Catholics and others including the Mung’omba Constitution Review Commission which has recommended against the declaration.
The storm over the declaration comes partly from fears of prejudice and intolerance of other religions. Professor Venkatesh Seshamani, a Hindu and University of Zambia lecturer, put it, “All non-Christian spiritual practices will be branded as dangerous or satanic cults.”
In its 2004 submission to the CRC, the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), a body of Catholic Bishops, petitioned tha Zambians of other faiths may feel as second class citizens. And in its joint submission with the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), ZEC thinks there is no need to make the declaration because Article Eight of the Bill of Rights already provides for the freedom of conscience and worship.And for a good measure, another Catholic wing, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection recommends that the same article in the draft constitution should in fact read,”Zambia has no state religion.”
In the 18 years that Zambia has existed as a Christian nation, with few exceptions, everyone has been free, and is still free, to practice their religion. Religions are co-existing and no one has been forced to convert to Christianity. However, as before, compulsory worship resides in Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist, Moslem and other private schools.
Unlike Asa, Hezekiah and Josiah, the kings of Judah , Zambia has not put away the abominations of the land. True to the constitution preamable, Zambia is a Christian nation while upholding the right of every person to enjoy that person’s freedom of conscience or religion. Yet the threat to remove the declaration still remains.
The primary reason of the storm is that the devil is not happy about the declaration. Put simply, he has unleashed wickedness in every sector in the country. As a result, there is bitterness, contentions, complaining, discontentment, unforgiveness, lewdness, profanity, stubbornness, craftiness, corruption, sexual immorality, resisting of authorities, hate, disobedience and other iniquities.
Today Zambia is a country where almost everything goes. One can speak anyhow, dress anyhow and sing anyhow. Even erotic dances like booty shaking done to sexually arouse audiences are done publicly, even at state functions. And they are greeted with tumultuous applause.
True Christians are appalled and pray that those who do not know Jesus Christ may know Him. But what have Christian defenders of the declaration done so far? Prayer of course. And one outstanding prayer session was the all-night prayer vigil of September 23, 2005 at Woodlands Stadium in Lusaka and other sites in Ndola, Kitwe and Chingola. They followed it up, the next day, with a demonstration against the recommendation of the Mung’omba CRC. Then ten (10) days later, on October 3, the Bishops Fellowship of Lusaka presented a petition, with about 14,000 signatures from churches and individuals, for retention of the declaration to the CRC. For now, everyone is awaiting the recommendation of the National Constitutional Conference some time this year.
As sure as blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the country is blessed but is yet to prosper visibly. Poverty is widespread and most people are not experiencing the reality of the impressive national economic performance seen by economists like Dr. Mwilola Imakando of the Economics Association of Zambia.
When President Rupiah Banda reaffirmed Zambia as a Christian nation at the recent Christian nation anniversary celebrations on December 29, 2009, he said it is because Christianity has offered the nation peace and good morals. Nevertheless he called on Christians to explain the validity of the declaration in fresh perspectives.
The truth is Jesus Christ calls every person and nation to choose whom they will serve between Him and the devil. Whoever is not His, is of the devil.Those who are not true to their word are not His. More importantly, whoever confesses Jesus before men, Jesus will also confess him to His Father who is in Heaven. But whoever denies Him before men, Jesus will do like wise. And because every nation will be judged (Matthew 25),when Joshua asked the Jews to make a choice, the Jews said, “Far be it for us that we should forsake the Lord.”
The country may be the odd one out in it’s religious identity and done little to show this claim, but there is a time for everything. One thing that people should be sure of is whether the declaration is the will of God or that of men. In a time that the battle has pit brother against brother, Zambians should seek the will of God.
A Pharisee named Gamaliel advised those who were persecuting Christians for preaching the gospel, “If this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing, but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it – lest you even be found to fight against God.”