(By Chambwa Moonga and Charles Tembo)
FATHER Richard Luonde has cautioned President Edgar Lungu to avoid scolding the Church or else the institution will laugh the loudest, eventually.
Meanwhile, the United Party for National Development says it finds President Lungu’s attack on the church very sad, unbecoming and unacceptable.
On Sunday, President Lungu said he was not ashamed to challenge the clergy that felt holier than others.
The President indicated that having a big cathedral or a synagogue did not make some Churches bigger than others.
He made the remarks at Christ the King International Church in Ndola’s Nkwazi township.
“I have been touched by the sermon this morning that we should worship God in truth and spirit. I will challenge the Zambian Church,” President Lungu said.
“I am saying this because on 1st May 2019 during Labour Day celebration, as we were talking to each other with some Labour leaders, one leader said the Church was not at the National Dialogue Forum and I said which church? This is because some people think they are the Church. The Church is all of us who are believers in Christ.”
He added that those who thought and wanted: “to talk us because they are the Church, we are in Church here now.”
“I challenge those who think because they have ultra-modern buildings, synagogues and cathedrals and believe they are the Church [that] they cannot be the Church; the church is all of us as a community,” he said.
President Lungu added that people should stop thinking holier than others.
“So, let us stop feeling holier than others…” said President Lungu.
But Fr Luonde, who is Socialist Party (Zambia) spokesperson, observed that it was unbecoming for President Lungu to rebuke the Church, in relation to attendance at the just-ended PF-dominated NDF.
“Watching the President saying no one is holier than…When people belong to the Church and belong to a grouping like the Council of Churches in Zambia, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, the Zambia Council of Catholic Bishops; these groupings are there for guidance,” Fr Luonde told The Mast in an interview.
“He shouldn’t forget that the three church mother bodies have the largest numbers in terms of membership. What the President should do is not to divide the Church. If there are people from the Church who attended the National Dialogue Forum, it was their choice. For those from the three church mother bodies who stayed away from the Forum, they heeded the instruction of their mother bodies not to be present. If anything, when you want to have dialogue, accept even the people that you deem to be foolish, to be biased.”
Fr Luonde said if the NDF was successful in its undertaking, “so be it.”
“But at the end of the day, Zambians will be the ones who will say it was a correct undertaking or not,” Fr Luonde said.
The Chingola-based clergyman stressed that President Lungu should concentrate on the country’s failing economy, instead of ‘politicking’ in Church buildings.
“What the President should concentrate on is to revive the economy of Zambia instead of playing politics where he shouldn’t. He should not play with the Church because at the end of the day, the Church will laugh the loudest,” cautioned Fr Luonde.
“What the President should do is to listen to the voices from the opposition political parties, voices from the civil society and the voices of ordinary Zambians.”
Meanwhile, UPND deputy chairperson for religious affairs Pastor Kangwa Chileshe says President Lungu must sober up.
In a statement, Pastor Chileshe advised President Lungu that his work oftentimes involves making choices that had moral undertones.
“It is sad, in a Christian nation with a religious and national guidance ministry, in a nation with a national day of prayer and fasting, a nation where a house of prayer devoted to God is being built, that when a national crisis arises, the Patriotic Front government refuses to allow the three Church Mother Bodies to spearhead the national dialogue process. We strongly feel Mr Lungu must first counsel his own ministers some of whom have posted pornographic pictures on social media before he goes for the church,” Pastor Chileshe stated.
“Mr Lungu has kept quiet when his most senior cabinet minister attended the National Dialogue Forum in a drunken state as reported by a cross section of the media. Mr Lungu has kept quiet while civil servants have been retired from the civil service in national interest on suspicion that they support the opposition. Mr Lungu kept quiet when his cadres attacked worshippers in church in Matero. He remained silent when his Copperbelt police commissioner demanded a permit for President Hakainde Hichilema to attend a church service.”
Pastor Chileshe stated that President Lungu should not attack the church when they refuse to succumb to his bullying.
“We advise Mr Lungu not to attack the church when they refuse to succumb to his bullying to attend the National Dialogue Forum. We also want to encourage the church that they must never compromise their faith and values, especially if the government forces or pressures them to make decisions that would cause them to stumble into sin (Acts 5:29). A Christian makes righteous decisions in the political realm because it is God’s will that all government institutions act in accordance with God’s righteous standard,” stated Pastor Chileshe.
“A government cannot do this properly if their definition of what is right and wrong is skewed, which is what we are experiencing in Zambia. This is why Christians who are engaged in politics should use their God-given position or legal privilege to help enact civil laws that reflect God’s standard of justice for the government. These laws should be designed to punish criminals for acts such as theft, murder, false testimony, and to defend the poor, the weak, and the marginalised against all unjust treatment.”