THE church is in pole position to end child marriages if it can go into the communities to sensitize would-be victims and offenders on the socio-economic consequences of the scourge, the Evangelical Youth Alliance (EYA) has said.
EYA Executive director Moses Lungu told the Daily Nation that the clergy should not only act when such cases are brought in the lime light but should employ preventive measures because they exert influence not only among their members but the communities at large.
Rev. Lungu said there was need for church conferences on how best the church can reduce or end child marriage as the clergy were key in the fight since they identified themselves with the communities where such cases were happening.
He said the fight against child marriages needed a holistic approach that embraced both the victims and offenders, adding that the church had a critical role to play in bringing out social upheavals that had a negative impact on society rather than trying to fight the outcome of the problem that could have been prevented in its initial stages.
“The church of Jesus Christ in our country has won the hearts of many believers. The problem of child marriage can be both addressed from a social and spiritual point of view.
The church should structure quality men who are charged with the responsibility of teaching and training God’s people.in the church. The church must focus on the challenges that have come with social fragmentation.
“We are now a socially fragmented society and people subscribe voluntarily to the proclaimed faith. We should implore measures to curb the vices that corrupt our moral values.
The bishops, pastors and church leaders should pay attention to address the problem. Most of the victims and perpetrators of child marriage have a religious bias, meaning that they belong to our churches,” Rev. Lungu said.
He said there was need for church leaders to acquaint themselves with existing laws of the country and supporting policies in order to devise an effective way they can contribute to the fight against child marriage.
He said there was also need for institutions such as hospitals and schools to employ chaplains who can freely and easily talk about the problem to the people.
“Our hospitals and clinics should not only employee social workers and counsellors but chaplains so that pastors can be everywhere where people are and educate the people. Schools should employ chaplains. We need to educate the people on how to cope with social and spiritual challenges,” he said.
Zambia has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world with 42 percent of women aged 20-24 years married by the age of 18 with the prevalence varying from one region to another, while statistics show that Eastern Province has the highest prevalence estimated to be around 60 percent.