The Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC)_ Issued a pastoral statement recently in which they raised several pertinent issues, which should help Chatolics and Non Catholics of good will to reflect on and also as food for thought as we approach august 11 2016 and as political campaigns gather momentum.
The KEY statement in that pastoral letter is “ours is unity in diversity and we need to thank God for that”. Zambia has 73 tribal groupings but for that past fifty years we have lived as one united people without any conflicts and this has been made possible by the great mercy of God the Father and the creator of all.
Some of the issues the bishops have raised in their statement are
> That the police musts apply law and order equally and not selectively as seen in the past
> That youth should not be used as tools of violence
> That the media coverage be fair to all
> That Christians should use t heir prophetic voices and denounce violence
> That amendment of the constitution is good move, but what next?
> That a dangerous phenomenon is emerging in our country and that is tribal or regional politics
> That articles in the constitution that ar5e subject to referendum be addressed cautiously.
> That District Commissioners as civil servants should be seen to be non partisan
The bishops end their pastoral statement with a prayer from St Francis of ASSIS
Lord make me an instrument of y our peace, where there is hatred, Let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon, where there is doubt,
Faith, where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy.
> O’ Lord divine Master, grant that IL may not so much seek to be consoled
So as to console; to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to
> Love, For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are
Pardoned, it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life”
In short the Bishops message is that there need for political tolerance because that is what multipartism is all about.
WHAT IS TOLERANCE?
It means accepting and valuing peoples differences without harboring prejudices. It is important that everyone in a democratic society stands up against intolerance. Sometimes it might be un comfortable, because the person expressing prejudice might be your friend or neibour. But silence allows these prejudices to go unchallenged. If people who express prejudice think everyone agrees with them, they may continue to express them and to convince other people that they are right in their thinking. It is important therefore that citizens educate each other in a democratic society. Prejudice destroys community, divides the people and creates an “ us versus them” attitude which is very dangerous.
THE POLICE MUST APPLY THE LAW EQUALLY
One of the most fundamental principles of a free democratic society is that every one, no matter how rich and powerful, is equal in the eyes of the law. That is why sometimes the image of justice is depicted as having a blindfold covering. If however people do not have faith in the law, and t hat if the laws are not applied fairly and equally to all, they will lose faith in the democratic system and the end result may be a revolution. A democratic government is a two way street. The powers to govern is transferred from the people to the elected officials. In the voting process all people are equal because each person has one vote.
Then when the elected officials decide on the laws to govern the society, these laws must be applied equally and without prejudice to each group and each individual.
A FREE MEDIA
The public media either print or electronic must provide equal access to all participating political parties in an election. The right to freedom of expression can be infringed upon if access to public media is restricted especially during election.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND POLITICIANS.
For those Christians who are active in the political arena, they ought to remember what St Paul said to the Corinthians and you are ‘ambassadors of Christ” in whatever field you choose to serve society. If you are a teacher, a doctor, en engineer, an accountant or what ever, you are an ambassador of Christ in that profession and you ought to promote Christian values of love, justice, concern for the poor, kindness and indeed, tolerance and avoid the use of vulgar and demeaning language against other tribal groupings. It is important at t his point to remind the Hon Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Government Spokesperson Hon Chishimba Kabwili MP the Name “ JESUS CHRIST’ is Holy and pure and should not be smeared with mud and the dirty of Zambia’s politics. Politics therefore offers a rare opportunity of providing servant leadership. Unfortunately people like Hon Chishimba Kabwili, don’t know this truth.
Those Christians who are active in political life should be guided by the Gospel values of respect for human dignity, human rights, the common good, social justice and solidarity but over and above all concern for the poor and non violence.
The words of St Paul in 2 Cor. 5;24 are indeed very inspiring , where he says, men and women in different spheres of life, whether working as teachers, Doctors in health centers, or in the field as agricultural extension staff or in indeed as political party organizers, etc etc, are all ambassadors of Christ and are expected to bring in those fields Christians values of love, justice, kindness, faithfulness, concern for poor etc and this should be the reason why Christians should choose political life.
In the Catholic Church we have a hymn which goes like this
Let all that is within me, cry holy, let all that is within me cry holy , holy, holy, holy is the lamb that was slain, Let all that is within me cry mighty, let all that is within me cry might, mighty, mighty, mighty is the Lamb that was slain, Let all that is within me cry risen, let all that is within me cry risen, risen, risen, risen is that Lamb that was slain, let all that is within me cry Jesus, let all that is within me cry Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the Lamb that was slain”, The name Jesus is therefore Holy and pure, because there is no any other name in Heaven or on Earth greater than that of Jesus, because all Authority has been given to Him and Him alone and therefore his name not be used for funny and to ridicule others.
In concluding my reflection of the ZEC pastoral statement I what to remind our political leaders
That indeed, it is only in pardoning others, that they will be pardoned and the starting point of pardoning others is by ‘ tolerant” to divergent political views.