Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Church and the constitution

The Church and the constitution
By Editor
Saturday July 07, 2007 [04:00]

The role of the Church in the social, political, economic and spiritual life of our nation does not require much disquisition. Since time immemorial, there are many points in history where the Church has actually been more reliable than political leadership in protecting mankind or human life from all forms of destructive actions arising from the selfishness of man.

Considering the somewhat confusing statements which have been coming from some of its leaders, it is a matter of great relief that the leadership of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) has put the record straight over its position on the constitution-making process. And looking at the contents of the full statement of the leadership of the UCZ on the constitution-making process, it is very clear that the direction that has been taken is in the interest of the majority of the Zambian people. This is how things should be.

We understand that the constitution-making process has been full of conflicted positions from many quarters of our society, not least from the Church. But we know that most of our religious leaders have been resolute in their arguments for the need to go the people’s way in everything that we do towards formulation of a new constitution. Others on the other hand, especially those who are always available to be hired as mouthpieces of political machineries, have taken positions that are completely opposite to what the people want in terms of the constitution-making process. And this is why the leadership of the UCZ, particularly UCZ synod Bishop Mutale Mulumbwa and general secretary Reverend Teddy Kalongo should be commended for making it clear that the UCZ will follow the mode of adoption recommended by the Mung’omba Constitution Review Commission (CRC). As the bishops rightly stated, the Constitution being a national document containing the supreme law of the land must be recognised and respected as embodying the sovereign will of the majority of the people.

Of course those who serve other special interests or their personal pocket agendas will do everything to campaign against the aspirations of the people over this process. Some even want to argue on the premise that the constitution-making process is a political issue and the Church should remain outside of it. Such a position is not only fallacious, but great negligence of a prophetic duty on the part of those church leaders who think this way. Given the consistent pattern of inconsistencies, dishonesty and treachery on the part of politicians, we have come to the unavoidable conclusion that politics or political processes are too serious a matter to be left to politicians alone. And this is why we think that genuine church leaders will not abdicate their role to engage in political process that are of utmost importance to the life of this nation.

So far, we think that the Church has done a great job in terms of contributing to the social, economic, political and spiritual life of our nation. We cannot imagine how overwhelmed or overburdened the government system would be today without the complementary efforts of the Church in many areas such as healthcare and education. If the Church is more than welcome to help the government in HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns or in providing health and education services by constructing and operating health centres and schools, why should they be pushed to the periphery on other serious national issues like the constitution-making process?

We are talking about this issue today because we have witnessed a lot of glaring contradictions, especially from politicians who have this mistaken view that the Church or church leaders should just confine their efforts to the pulpit. We have even heard politicians accusing Church leaders of being partisan over the constitution-making process. What is strange though is that when some church leaders support the partisan position of the government over this matter, such church leaders are not said to be partisan. When other church leaders make or advance positions that are opposed to those of the government, they are quickly labeled partisan members of the clergy and lectured on how their place is at the pulpit and not engaging in politics.

The question of partisanship is only invoked when church leaders hold opposing views from those of politicians, otherwise anything in their support goes well and church leaders will not be told to keep a distance from politics.

It is these contradictions from our politicians, which make it necessary that politics or political processes are not left to them alone because they are inconsistent, dishonest, insincere and self-serving. If politicians are allowed to drive the constitution-making process on their own, we can be assured that they will truly deliver the kind of document which they have always been striving for; they will come up with their own constitution, not that which will be acceptable to the majority of the Zambian people.

To avoid leaving room for politicians to always manipulate their way against the aspirations of the people, it is important that when it comes to political processes in our country, all stakeholders are brought on board. And we do not need to overstate the important role that the Church will continue to play in our country’s political processes. This is how we look at things and we believe this is the way things should be. So far, we believe the Church has done a great job in terms of consistently campaigning for a people-driven constitution making process and we can only urge all well-meaning church leaders to keep it so until the end of the process, even beyond.



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