By Alfred K. Ndhlovu
Mr. Frank Bwalya willingly and freely joined the Catholic Church to become a priest and after intensive training he earned a title of “father” which unfortunately he has abused. There is no Order in the Catholic Church which is represented, known or defined by secular activities which Mr. Frank Bwalya is involved in today! Suffice to say that he is a renegade priest. Only God knows what it is to get lost with the Bible, Word of God, in one’s hands!
Mr. Frank Bwalya has been the voice of the opposition, particularly the Patriotic Front for a long time, starting from when he managed Radio Icengelo in Kitwe. After being reassigned, he formed an organization which flushes Red Cards, which first meant that the Movement for Multiparty Democracy should be voted out of office and power. Is there anything spiritual or indeed godly in such activities? This is actually using the Church in vain. It has, finally, got its own consequences. As a man of God, Mr. Frank Bwalya knows better what is meant here.
The calling to priesthood is a very serious matter to anybody who chooses to be a priest, pastor or indeed any other name that men and women of God are known by in various denominations. I should, in fact, state that priesthood is a sacred calling and duty.
There is a very strong view and argument that poverty is largely a product of failure to acknowledge God. The writer subscribes to this view because the first and original abode of first human beings was Paradise in the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Eden in Paradise. The fight against poverty is essentially an effort to regain what was lost! Priests are expected and supposed to know this better.
The fundamental purpose of priesthood is to evangelize. This is the substance of one being a pastor, too. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary International Student’s Edition (8thEdition) the word “evangelize” means, “…to try to persuade people to become Christians.” An evangelist is, therefore, a person of the Gospel such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the books called by the same names in the Holy Bible. In fact, the four Gospels of the Holy Bible are the basis of calling people to God through Jesus Christ who personified God, the Father and assumed the responsibility to die on behalf of all other human beings, resurrect on the third day to guarantee that salvation of the souls is possible and that resurrection will be an inheritance for the believers.
The Catholic Church has made considerable contribution to the development of Zambia in areas of education and health. This is as it should be. Education is very important indeed. Education frees people from ignorance and lack of knowledge, lest they perish. Education arms people with ideas of discovery and ambitions to prosper. Parents send their children to school because they expect them to learn in order to become better persons than they would otherwise be without education.
It is most unfortunate that a trend has been set in many African countries including Zambia where educated people are actually poor. They are failing to find jobs and end up in squalor and poverty. A situation where most of our young people are unemployed and hopeless is very sad. This has started posting worry and concern judged from the advent of the Arab Spring phenomenon in North Africa and elsewhere. The Arab Spring was triggered by a youth street vender in Tunisia who doused himself with petrol after running away from police harassment! This challenge is not for Tunisia alone. It is a challenge for the whole world. Our youths need attention. Governments and the Church, as a whole, need to work together to find solutions besides jobs for our young people to be engaged productively. Our youths need to use the power of ambition to do other things which will be best substitutes for conventional jobs.
Tunisia must immortalize that youth by building a statue of him dousing himself to remind the people of Tunisia and the world that the young people need attention instead of leaving them on the streets to do petty businesses in a haphazard manner.
Health, like education, is also a fundamental need of human societies. Diseases, injuries and child bearing are big challenges wherever we choose to live. Health should not be looked at in a narrow way, as the availability of drugs and medicines only. Health is defined broadly as the patients, the health services providers, clinic/hospital facilities, medical equipment, medicines/drugs and resource mobilization put together. There are many professions and careers in the health sector. This is what makes the sector both essential but expensive to provide.
The Catholic Church in Zambia has done remarkably well in running health services in areas of need and deserving throughout the country. Although Catholic clinics and hospitals are not as many as Catholic schools, the truth is that they have had a positive impact on the communities affected.
Education and health, as already stated elsewhere, are not cheap, to provide. If Zambia wants good and high quality education and health care, she must be prepared and ready to look for big and more money to meet the needs of the sectors. Poor and inadequate funding of the sectors results in many challenges of performance. Quality of services largely depends on the levels of funding; the more the better and the less the poorer!
I have often argued with friends and political opponents that the so called “free education and health” is an empty political agenda which is too hard to achieve. Anything which is given freely is abused. Quality of free things may also be low. A patient and student need to have value for money in the education and health care provided. Professionals engaged to work in these sectors need to be rewarded sufficiently well. They deserve to be able to live decent lives and be able to enjoy reasonably high status in society and communities.
The Catholic Church has been resilient in administering the sectors because both rich and poor people need education for their children and health for all. I believe that open free education and health may be abused by the well-to-do and rich folks who do not deserve them in the first place. This is a big challenge.
Mr. Frank Bwalya ought to know and recognize the fact that the Catholic Church has a long history in Zambia. Many people know it without necessarily being members. There are our friends and relatives who are members of the Catholic Church. One of my nephews, for instance, is a priest in the Catholic Church elsewhere in the south. I am very proud of him because he has fitted in very well to do the will of God. Mr. Bwalya will do well to emulate pioneer Catholic priests such as now His Eminence Medardo Cardinal Mazombwe who has excelled in the Catholic Church as a renowned evangelist. I have known him for many years as a good preacher of the word of God. Cardinal Mazombwe started priesthood as a young man against all odds when Zambia was a British colony. Local tribal traditions were very strong and some people associated the Church as part of colonialism in Africa. He remained firm and steadfast in faith and rose within the ranks to later become the Archbishop of Lusaka. In his early years as a priest Cardinal Mazombwe was an admirable priest who served across the barriers of denominations. As per Catholic practice, he taught in schools on part time basis. Many students liked his inspired prayers and more so his homilies. These good old days never come back, but successors such as Mr. Bwalya today must live them diligently.
Another renowned Catholic priest I knew when I was a young man was “fallen” Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. Archbishop Milingo is a contemporary of Cardinal Mazombwe. Archbishop Milingo was also a very good evangelist of the word of God who preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to many people without shame. Archbishop Milingo was such a good preacher that he earned a reputation of “speaking to God” in his prayers! His homilies and prayers were inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was not surprising when he rose within the ranks to later become in his ministry the Archbishop of Lusaka, the first black man or Zambian to hold that position in the Archdiocese of Lusaka.
The two clergymen are perfect examples of focus and endurance in the vocation which they chose for themselves. They did not have records of branching off or abandoning what they pledged, swore and vowed before God to do in their lives.
Archbishop Milingo later married a Korea woman in a mass wedding. Pope John Paul ll tried in vain to counsel and rehabilitate Archbishop Milingo. The Pope later died living the Archbishop Milingo saga behind unresolved. However, Pope Benedict XVI invoked his powers to excommunicate Archbishop Milingo who claims that he is “still a Catholic”. Pope John Paul ll had a point to delay or hesitate on excommunicating Archbishop Milingo. Marriage by anybody, per se is not a sin. It is adultery which is a sin. Archbishop Milingo may have violated rules of celibacy and procedures of seeking marriage, but certainly his marriage was neither a sin nor a sinful act. Celibacy violates God’s instruction, or blessing, for human beings, male and female, to “have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control” (Genesis 1: 28), but celibacy is certainly not a sin. Excommunication of Archbishop Milingo was a very severe punishment disproportionate to the offence committed by Archbishop Milingo. I understand why he insists “I am a Catholic,” as he continues to participate in feasible development efforts and initiatives in Zambia.
I asked one of my Catholic friends about what was his view on Mr. Bwalya’s political antics of red cards. He replied, “…that one is mad…” Surely, he may be so in as far as reneging on priesthood is concerned. His political efforts will not yield any rich Catholic, not even one! The PF administration will disappoint and shock him overwhelmingly because it will leave behind more poverty than it found in September 2011.
Many Zambians are really suffocated in poverty today than at any time since 1964, especially that no money has been put in anybody’s pockets as promised. Only relatives and friends of Mr. Michael C. Sata have been employed in government, parastatal companies, diplomatic service, judiciary and so forth. Some Catholics, like Mr. Simon Kabanda, are surviving on Commissions of Inquiry.