RETIRED Archbishop of Lusaka Telesphore Mpundu says he is not at all partisan. And Archbishop Mpundu says politics is just too important to just leave to politicians on their own. Meanwhile, Archbishop Mpundu says if Jesus returned to earth today, he would offer Himself to be crucified again. He was speaking on Frank and Hot radio programme on Hot FM yesterday. Several people condemned the church for allegedly attacking the government and accused Archbishop Mpundu of being a UPND supporter.
A caller said in the dialogue process, the church should merely chair and allow politicians to sort out issues. The caller accused Archbishop Mpundu of being a UPND cadre. He said politicians must go to seek counsel from the church who must be independent. Lottie Soko from Matero said politicians had compromised churches. Another caller, Christopher, expressed concern that the Roman Catholic Church was busy with political issues when there were many issues in the nation that needed attention.
“There is moral decay in the country and those are issues that the Church is very quiet about but they are very vocal when it comes to issues of politics. That’s the reason why this country seems to be very divided because when the Church comes out so strong on political issues, normally it’s one sided,” Christopher said.
He said moral uprightness was what concerns everyone rather than politics.
“Politics, there are very few people who are concerned with it. Most of us are concerned with the moral decay but Fathers like the Archbishop, they are very busy with political matters rather than looking at the moral situation of the country,” said Christopher.
Another caller, Tumelo said in the late 1980s the Church sided with the people to bring about multipartism but wondered whether multipartism had helped the nation given the political conflicts.
He said churches do not sweep their own houses but only focus on other people. But Namanda of Lusaka supported Archbishop Mpundu’s views. He said the role of the Church was to foster love, peace and unity.
“When the church sees that there is disunity among the people, they need to come in and ensure that there is unity; there is no peace, the church needs to come in. This is what you are doing. The Church should not be ashamed to point at a wrong. When you always preached, you were preaching in my church either are Marian Shrine, you used to tell us, twilabembuka (we shouldn’t be sinning); why are we sinners? If the politicians are going wrong you say the ruling party are wrong, the opposition is wrong, what is wrong with that? Let’s call a spade a spade,” Namanda said.
“Jesus Christ Himself called his own people ‘you hypocrites’, are you not aware? Why should we go round circles when we know that the people who are now trying to undermine the dialogue process, it is the PF and its president Edgar Chagwa Lungu. Today they are insulting the Church, they are saying the Church, these bishops whatever and whatever when it is him without any sense of shame. They invited you as the Church to lead the dialogue but today his own people are insulting you, look at the mediocrity and hypocrisy!”
Namanda said the church did not impose itself on politicians.
“These PF members and government have inflicted pain on the citizens of this country. Bantu ifi balecula mu calo mulandu bwa buteko, ubutungulushi tabuli bwino, tabuweme, efilya abantu balefwa kunsanla necipowe (people are suffering in the country because the leadership is not good; people are dying of hunger and suffering). People who are suffering in Misisi are the ones insulting you! God forbid that touch the anointed ones because God will punish you,” said Namanda.
Asked by interviewer Frank Mutubila to respond to the various issues raised by callers, Archbishop Mpundu said when the UPND invited him to speak to them as a guest speaker on political violence, which he thought cuts across political parties, he clearly said people would insult him, and brand him UPND when he has never been a member of any political party. He said he had looked at political issues in Zambia for many years.
“So that is one thing; I am not partisan at all. Now if you are talking about church leaders not interested in politics, just hanging around, that is not their mission; politics is just too important to just leave to politicians on their own; the Church has to come in and give them guidance but they don’t want guidance,” he said. “Now you are saying this man is very much interested in politics. Well, have you read the Gospel, how Jesus came in, how he was there always on the part of the poor and bringing sense, sanity to people? Politics is part of people’s lives. If you were listening to what I was saying concerning the Gaudium et. Spes – the joy or happiness, or the suffering of the people, this is also the joy and the suffering of the church.”
Archbishop Mpundu noted that some people say the church should remain in the sacristy and pray so that people have good morals.
“No, our life begins in the sacristy, in the church we pray but we go out and we influence things there where people are,” he said.
On Christopher’s comments on moral decay in the country, Archbishop Mpundu said when things were bad in the nation, people ask what the church was doing.
He said when the church does something, the same people ask why the church could not just stay in the sacristy and not get too much interested in politics.
“It’s all connected with politicians; political leadership is needed even in cases of morality. If politicians are the ones who are showing everyone that it is alright to steal then everyone is saying look it is being done; but we are very much concerned because that is what we do every Sunday,” he said. “But people are people, you can’t force morality down their throats but also you have to remember that we don’t even need the bible to know what is right, we know instinctively.”
Archbishop Mpundu noted that people know what was right but go on to commit wrongs.
On Soko who said some churches were compromised, Archbishop Mpundu said there were human beings in churches.
“We don’t have angels in churches; some are compromised, others stand their ground. But this is humanity. Jesus when he was going to Heaven, He said I will be with you till the end of time, He didn’t say I am promising you, you are not going to sin, you’ll be angels, no. We have to struggle against evil every time. Compromise is because people are giving you money or some other material wealth in order to do something,” he said, urguing Christians to stick to their principles.
Archbishop Mpundu said no one told Zambians that multipartism was the solution to all problems.
“It’s the people; things are in people’s hearts. With a bad system and you have hearts that are golden, things are going to move well. But you can have the best system you can get and you have bad people, nothing will move,” he said.
Archbishop Mpundu said churches did not just stand up to condemn the government.
“When things are wrong, we are not ashamed to say it and we are not popular because of that. We are not afraid to say it,” he said.
On the road to 2021 general elections, Archbishop Mpundu said when the Commonwealth team came to Zambia, it was very careful to contact as many players as possible. He noted that the various stakeholders came up with issues to resolve in the national dialogue, which included the constitution and its lacunae.
Archbishop Mpundu said there was suspicion where one player tries to craft the agenda at the exclusion of others. Asked by Mutubila what he thought Jesus would do about the situation in Zambia if he returned today, Archbishop Mpundu said He would have the same problems that he faced when he was on earth.
“In no time, being God, He could even give Himself another quality of dying again, he would be crucified again. What he was saying is still relevant today,” he said.
“He had no sacred cows, he went to the priests in the temple where they were swindling people, where they were overcharging people, where they were exploiting people. What did he do? He took a rope, get out of this, you are turning my Father’s house into a house of thieves, my brothers and sisters out there, isn’t this happening among church leaders?”
Archbishop Mpundu said Jesus would do a cleaning operation among church leaders.
“Politicians, he will go after them (saying), ‘I have my people, you are not feeding them, they are poor, it’s not that you don’t have enough wealth, it’s because it’s not fairly distributed’. That’s what Jesus would do,” said Archbishop Mpundu.