THIS violence will consume all of us if left unchecked, warns the the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Catholic Church says a divided nation does not develop.
“As for the Church, we have not lost hope. The Catholic Church will not lose sight of its God-given ministry of reconciliation, peace-building and enhancement of national unity,” Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba says.
The ZCCB met journalists at its 2019 media day yesterday, and highlighted numerous successes and challenges it has scored and observed, respectively.
The media day is the show for the Catholic Church to present to journalists what the Church does in various aspects.
The day is also designed for journalists to interact with ZCCB staff.
Mongu Diocese bishop and bishop director of Caritas Zambia Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba hailed the media as the recorder of history, the present and also people who have in mind a future to record.
“Even in the dark hours of not having Zesco (frequent power outages), media continue to operate. You (journalists) never tire to give stories even in the context of challenging moments in our country. We value the noble work that you do; that is why we are pleased to interact with you,” Bishop Chinyemba said at Kapingila House in Lusaka.
“As for the staff working for the Catholic media houses, there is even another important task the Church is calling you to do – to use the media to evangelise.”
He said there was no point in believing that God was love and: “yet we promote hatred, division and violence against one another.”
The clergyman explained that Zambia, at the moment, “is facing enormous challenges.”
“These are all related to the way our economy and politics are being managed. As you know, Southern, Western, and some parts of Eastern, Central and Lusaka provinces experienced crop failure during the 2018/2019 rainy season,” Bishop Chinyemba said. “As a Church, we mobilised resources that we distributed to three dioceses; Mongu, Monze and Livingstone dioceses in order to support the communities that were affected [by hunger].”
He added that about 1,000 people were reached with the support that came from the Church’s effort.
“[But] not enough! Starting [from] tomorrow (today), Caritas Zambia will be meeting with the dioceses throughout the country to look at the issue and see where our people are. But the reports we get [are that] there is still starvation in our communities. So, we won’t give up in terms of mobilising resources that could help some of our people affected by hunger,” Bishop Chinyemba said.
On freedom of assembly and association, he said Zambia was a very interesting country where: “immediately after elections, we are in a campaign mode for five years.”
“If that’s the spirituality we have of campaigning each day from the day of election, then certain things have to be put in place that can support such kind of ways of living and interacting,” he noted.
“On the right to assemble and to associate, our view is that without the public order Act providing specifically for the protection of people’s rights to assemble, associate and express themselves, changes being made now will not yield any different result from the past practices and experiences.”
He indicated that those who were working to improve the public order Act should believe and share the view that the main purpose of the Act should not only be to control public gatherings and demonstrations.
“But to protect the rights of people who want to assemble and carry out public events with full protection of the law,” the Bishop said.
He further commented on the right to life and lamented that in the recent times, “we have noticed that there is a steady rise in our society today, as a culture of non-respect of life itself….”
The Bishop complained that it was sad to note that Zambia had continued to have a record-high gender-based violence cases.
“According to the Zambia Police in 2019, there were about 6,788 cases of gender-based violence reported countrywide. We are meant to protect each other. We are not meant to massacre each other,” he said.
On politically-instigated violence witnessed from 2016 to date in the country, Bishop Chinyemba cautioned that the vice had the potential to “consume” everyone, unless curtailed.
“What worries us is that very few people have so far been brought to book over almost all the violent incidents. This violence will consume all of us, if left unchecked. Why should a life be lost over a by-election of a council chairperson or even of a President?” Bishop Chinyemba said.
“The Catholic Church is convinced that the failure to promote and protect fundamental human rights and freedoms, lack of a democratic culture of tolerance and respect for divergent views and opinions is the root cause of this political violence we see.”
He further talked about corruption in public and private offices in Zambia.
The Bishop believes such was stale news to journalists because the vice forms, mainly, the reportage of journalists in the country.
“Just imagine a Zambia without a spirit of corruption. How will that Zambia look like?” he asked, without expecting a response, nonetheless.
Bishop Chinyemba added that corruption reported at various levels, in the Auditor General’s report, in the Financial Intelligence Centre, was the challenge for Zambia.
He noted also that the hunger, among political leaders, to accumulate more than the country was sickening.
“A corruption-free nation is a beauty to behold! Where is that appetite to acquire everything for me, myself and I [coming from]?” he wondered.”
“A lot has been said on corruption and we hope that the law enforcement officers will do their part in order to bring the culprits to book. Corruption tendencies are not life-giving but death.”
Bishop Chinyemba, on dialogue and reconciliation, pointed out that the Catholic Church, working with other members of the church mother bodies, had desired to guide Zambia towards national dialogue and reconciliation, “yet these efforts were not appreciated.”
“As for the Church, we have not lost hope. The Catholic Church will not lose sight of its God-given ministry of reconciliation, peace-building and enhancement of national unity,” Bishop Chinyemba said.
“Working with other church mother bodies and on its own, the Catholic Church will continue using a pastoral approach and its prophetic voice to promote a process of genuine national dialogue and reconciliation in the nation. A divided nation does not develop!”
The other challenges he spoke about include the plight of pensioners, climate change and its impact, among others.
Earlier, the Bishop highlighted some successes the Church has scored, as it responds to the gospel.
He explained that the Catholic Church had continued to provide healthcare to the poor, especially in the provision of maternal and child healthcare.
“The Catholic Church is currently running 21 mission hospitals, 38 rural health centres and six schools of nursing and midwifery. We do this in order to contribute to the national health plan…” he said.
On education, the Bishop indicated that the Church offered that service to Zambians at various levels.
“University level education is provided by the Zambia Catholic University based in Kalulushi while three colleges of education, Charles Lwanga, Mongu Catholic College of Education and St Mary’s have continued to produce teachers,” Bishop Chinyemba said.
“There are two trade institutes – St Mawagali (Choma) and Kasiya (Pemba) which provide skills training in various fields as well as entrepreneurship.”
Apart from those tertiary institutions, the Catholic Church, according to Bishop Chinyemba, runs 58 grant-aided secondary schools, four minor seminaries, nine special schools, 52 primary schools and over 40 private Catholic schools.
“We truly believe that the best way to migrate a nation from poverty is to empower its population with education,” he said.
The other positives Bishop Chinyemba spoke about are social accountability, pastoral care and communication, among others.
Under communication, he spoke about the launch of the test transmission by the Catholic Church-owned Lumen TV Zambia.
“This is a Catholic TV station established to further the evangelising mission of the Church,” said Bishop Chinyemba and hopes Catholic faithful and Zambians, at large, would support the TV station.