MEMBERS of the clergy have challenged the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious affairs to brief the nation why the construction works for the National House of Prayer Tabernacle have not commenced.
The clergy are also demanding the reason behind the dissolution of the advisory board, fundraising and technical committee which was put up to spearhead the construction works.
On October 25, 2015 President Edgar Lungu laid a foundation stone of the house of prayer, which would cost K54 million in Woodlands area.
In December the same year the Head of State appointed a board to spearhead the construction works.
However, since the inception of the project the land on which the house of prayer will be put up still remains dormant, neither has a foundation for the house of prayer been laid.
President Lungu on March 13 silently dissolved the board led by Bishop Joshua Banda of Northmead Assemblies of God, which was responsible for mobilising funds for the tabernacle due to financial misunderstandings.
International Fellowship for Christian Churches (IFCC) president Bishop Simon Chihana said the construction of the house of prayer had dragged, and the authorities in charge especially the Ministry of Religious Affairs should give an update to the nation because when the programme was initiated it was made known to the public and that five years on there was no foundation nor activity.
“Reverend Sumaili is supposed to give us an update, if not the Head of State as the initiator of the programme to let the nation know where we stand. If it has been abandoned, we will not condemn them but it will be important that the nation should know where things stand now and I hope there is nothing to do with abuse of funds. We also need to know how much was contributed towards the construction of the project, because this is a national issue and not a private matter or an individual issue and so they need to let us know the amount that was donated and how the funds were used,” demanded Bishop Chihana.
“If funds were mismanaged who took what? There must be accountability because that’s not personal money. That was money meant for the construction of the church building. If there was mismanagement it will be called plunder of national resources. According to the word of God if we can’t be entrusted with material things how can we be entrusted with spiritual things? Public money is public money because it’s the way we handle things as men of God that’s what creates confidence in the congregants to listen to us. This thing should not just go quietly.”
He said the advisory board was appointed openly and to dissolve it quietly will not auger well with people even though Zambians have the tendency of ignoring things.
Bishop Chihana said there was need to be officially told that the board had been dissolved and the reason it had been dissolved.
Chikondi Foundation president Bishop John Mambo urged the government not to go ahead with the construction of the house of prayer amidst the economic crisis.
He said instead the government should channel the funds to the less privileged or consider helping churches that were struggling and worshiping in classrooms.
“It takes a donor to help, the government should empower churches instead of putting up the house of prayer. Even Israel, a holy city, there is no such things like house of prayer directed to the church because people belong to different churches,” he said. “This is the vision of President Edgar Lungu and we know that it is not a good vision in the sense that for a function such as a state funeral if you are not a Catholic you will go to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross why build something when the economy does not allow?”
Bishop Mambo charged that the names of the board were not floated and it was not known who had short and long hands.
He said the appointment of the technical board was during the day but that the dissolution was in the dark, which raised speculation.
“And brings embarrassment because people are questioning how much was embezzled from the project?” Bishop Mambo said while wondering who would donate towards the project unless the reason behind the dissolution of the board was known.
“It’s a nonstarter, it will not take off. If it takes off where will the money come from? The delay is out of funding I don’t see any other thing. The house of prayer by now would have finished. How many days of prayer and fasting have we had in October? So many, they stole some money,” said Bishop Mambo. “The problem is that we Zambians because there are no jobs, and if we are clergy and you are in civil society maybe that’s the only livelihood, you will be looking for a per diem that’s how we end up stealing. The Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs is lacking in many areas. In the happenings of this country, the church should have a say in the affairs of the state.”
When contacted religious affairs minister Reverend Godfridah Sumaili refused to comment on the matter.
“I don’t want to talk about it before we finalise everything. Before I talk to the media, I need to talk to the spiritual fathers, that’s when we can talk to the media. For now, I can’t say anything just know we are doing something” said Rev Sumaili.