Friday, February 12, 2010

A criminal, evil and corrupt friendship

A criminal, evil and corrupt friendship
By The Post
Fri 12 Feb. 2010, 04:00 CAT

THERE’S a reason for the friendship between Frederick Chiluba and Rupiah Banda. There’s certainly something that binds them together. It is said that birds come to roost with those of their own kind; and that every creature prefers its own kind, and people are no different; just as animals of the same species flock together, so people keep company with people like themselves.

But one thing is clear: no true friendship can be built on the shifting sands of evasions, illusions and opportunism.

We know it is very difficult for many Zambians to understand and appreciate why the President of their country can have for his friend a man who has stolen and abused public funds and other resources; a man who the government took to court in London and obtained a judgment against him of stealing public funds.

To understand why this is possible, the first thing the Zambian people should do is to try and understand the nature and character of Rupiah himself. As Fr Cletus Mutunu has correctly observed, Chiluba has caused enough pain in the lives of many poor Zambians for him to be the best friend of their President.

But why is Rupiah befriending Chiluba with all that is known about his corruption and abuses? Why is Rupiah ignoring even the biblical advice which says: “Don’t be envious of evil people, and don’t try to make friends with them. Causing trouble is all they ever think about; every time they open their mouth someone is going to be hurt” (Prov. 24:1-2). It is also said that a leader who makes friends with good-for-nothings is a disgrace to his people.

Leadership is very vital to the future of our nation. But in the end, putting aside all the theories and concepts, good leadership will be achieved, not by the formality of structures, but by the integrity of the participant and his willingness to be inspired by a larger version.

And of all the properties which belong to good leaders, not one is highly prized as that of character. Rupiah’s friendship with Chiluba speaks volumes about his character. And leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.

The type of people a leader keeps company with is an ethical issue. Not everyone can be a friend to a leader because this is a leadership issue and the president must set the example. A man of real character is imbued with a basic integrity and a firm sense of principle.

Example is not the main thing in a leader being able to influence other citizens, it is the only thing. It is really poor judgement on Rupiah’s part to declare Chiluba as one of his best friends and sing about it wherever he goes. Those who wish to sing, always find a song. But reason and judgement are the qualities of a leader.

Rupiah has clearly demonstrated that his personal interests take precedence over his obligations to the people. A leader’s obligations to the people must always take precedence over loyalty or commitment to a friend, to an individual.

What does it mean for a leader to be found all the time in the company of those who have robbed government, who have stolen from the people? What is the basis of that friendship? What makes Chiluba and Rupiah friends?

Well, some define a friend as someone with whom we share the same interests, values, or beliefs. Others say a friend is someone in whom you can confide intimate information about yourself, without risking embarrassment.

These characteristics of friendship are generally valid, but they do not explain the real basis of friendship. The foundation of friendship is, quite simply, shared experiences. The more activities two people share together, the more they become friends.

Look at the friendship described in the Bible. David once described a close friend who had betrayed him as one with who he frequently talked and went to the Temple with (Ps. 55:13-14). Jesus called His apostles His friends, because of all the teaching He had shared with them over the years (John 15:15). Paul and Timothy became closer than a father and son because of their years of work and travel together.

Soldiers on the battlefield often become close friends because they share very real life-and-death experiences with each other. And this is despite the very different backgrounds many of them come from.

Look at your own circle of friends. The one, and possibly only thing they have in common is that they all share experiences with you in some way.

Whether work, church, politics, or recreation, your friends are those with whom you spend time talking, laughing, working, arguing, crying, building, playing or just sitting around. Whatever else you may or may not have in common, life has somehow thrown you together, and the time you spend together doing things has allowed a relationship to develop that we call “friendship”.

But look at this from another direction. Think of the people who were your friends in the past, but no longer are. Whatever may have contributed to the parting, whether there was some disagreement or you just drifted apart, one thing is certain – you no longer share experiences together.

Friendship cannot survive in the absence of shared experiences. This principle has serious implications in maintaining our social well-being. If we want to have friends in this life, we must open ourselves up to sharing experiences with others.

And to maintain those friendships, we must continue to share experiences. Those experiences may change over time, but the nature of the experiences is less important than the mere fact that we have them. Otherwise, the friendships wither and die.

So friendships between people show us where they are coming from, where they are and where they are headed. This is the way we look at the friendship between Chiluba and Rupiah and try to understand what binds them together.

For Christians, we say we are here on earth as pilgrims, on a journey towards heaven. All our wisdom consists in identifying and following the path that leads to heaven.

But how many deceptions! Wide is the way that leads to perdition, and many enter into it. Narrow is the path that leads to heaven, and few take it! (Matt. 7:13-14). God, Jesus Christ, and the church cry out to us: “You have in front of you the way of life and the way of death; choose therefore life” (Dt. 30:19).

Human life is a continuous battle on earth. Therefore fight like good soldiers of Christ. None will be crowned except one who fights in the lawful manner: “I have fought the good fight; for the rest there is laid up for me a crown of justice” (2Tim. 4:7-8).

These are the texts which should take the lead in the present consideration. Life is a battle, and in this battle there are those who fight like ordinary soldiers, they are the captains represented by the priests, and there is the forward sentry represented by the religious.

There are also the deserters who, tired and lacking in confidence, flee the arena; they are the shirkers who, under a thousand pretexts, hide themselves; and finally those who idly stand watching, applauding or sneering. There are also the traitors who take the enemy’s side.

The name Christian means: like Christ, follower of Christ. Now, Jesus Christ was humble, most pure, poor, meek: how can his disciple and imitator be proud, arrogant and corrupt, dishonest and greedy?

Alexander the Great once said to a soldier who also had the same name but was sluggish, mean and cowardly: “ Either change your name or change your behaviour.”

Here is a thought that converted a great knight who would rather worldly: Jesus Christ is crucified, and I want to satisfy myself; Jesus Christ is very poor, and I am ambitious for riches and gluttony; Jesus Christ is on the cross, and I am lying on a feather bed. Ah! I do not deserve the name of Christian! I want to change my life; I want to follow the Divine Master.

How many Christians are there who have no more than the name and the baptism of Jesus Christ, while they live like pagans! What shame, what remorse! And why?

He who does not imitate Christ does not love Christ: love is imitation. The persons who really love Jesus are those who follow Him to Calvary, in His private life of obedience, in His humility. Imitation is the infallible character to distinguish the lovers of Jesus. And so, there is no middle path.

In saying all this, we are not in any way trying to compete with our priests, pastors, reverends in preaching the Gospel. We are merely trying to use the same language Chiluba attempts to use to confuse our people, to hide his heinous deeds and the crimes of his league.

To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exactly an indispensable form of charity in truth; it is the principle driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.

Chiluba’s friendship with Rupiah should be seen for what it is – a criminal, evil and corrupt friendship!

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