Thursday, February 18, 2010

‘Seeking justice for all’

‘Seeking justice for all’
By The Post
Thu 18 Feb. 2010, 04:00 CAT

IN reading the pastoral letter on the state of the nation issued by the Council of Churches in Zambia on Tuesday, we feel the Church has both the right and duty to participate fully in building a just and peaceful society with all the means at its disposal.

We say this because the promotion of justice and true peace is an expression of Christian faith in love that God has for every human being. And a Church is not fully rooted among its people if it does not try to establish justice. It is said that “faith of itself, if it does not have works is dead” (Jas. 2:17).

And we are again reminded of this in Luke 11:42-46 : “ ‘How terrible for you Pharisees! You give to God one tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint and rue and all the other herbs, but you neglect justice and love for God. These you should practice, without neglecting others.

How terrible for you Pharisees! You love the reserved seats in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market places. How terrible for you! You are like unmarked graves which people walk on without knowing it.’ One of the teachers of the law said to Him, ‘Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too!’ Jesus answered, ‘How terrible also for you teachers of the Law! You put on to people’s backs loads which are hard to carry, but you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry those loads.’ ”

Clearly, a faith and a life which are authentically Christian cannot fail to blossom in a love which constitutes truth and promotes justice. True faith touches on our beliefs, feelings and actions, our head, heart and hand.

It is in this spirit that we respond to the Council of Churches in Zambia’s call to the Zambian people to carefully consider the issues raised in their pastoral reflection and act on them.

And as they have correctly pointed out, we also see their mandate as that of being “a prophetic voice with a transformative impact on Church and society for the propagation of Christian values and human dignity”. And truly, “this mandate is motivated and inspired by the word of God in seeking justice for all” (Prov. 31:8-9).

From the Council of Churches in Zambia’s pastoral letter, it is clear that the Church values the democratic system in as much as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate.

It is also clear that the main Christian churches in our country are speaking the same language. The language being used by the Council of Churches in Zambia to describe the state of the nation is not different from that of the Zambia Episcopal Conference.

The only Christian churches speaking a different language are those created for the business and political purposes of their owners. These are the only ones defending the status quo, the wrongdoings of the powerful.

The Council of Churches in Zambia in its pastoral letter observes that “since 1991, Zambia has embraced a democratic system of government, that is, a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

This entails that the people’s aspirations are to be determined by themselves. Therefore, this calls for principles of equal participation and freedom of expression to be enhanced. However, almost 20 years down the road, the Church has observed that there has been a departure from the democratic principles to a non tolerant culture.

The objectives and aspirations of the 1990s have died down. The governance situation does not promote equal participation and justice for the ordinary citizens as only a few elite are the beneficiaries”.

Their definition of democracy is that of Lincoln. For us, democracy means that governments are closely linked to the people, arise from the people, have the support of the people and devote themselves entirely to working and struggling for the people and the people’s interests.

Democracy implies the defence of all the rights of citizens, including the right to dignity and honour. For us, democracy means fraternity and true equality among men and women and equal opportunities for all men and women, for every human being who is born.

And the democracy that is being practiced in this country today does not contain any of these elements. How can we talk of democracy in a country where a minority has immense fortunes acquired from or through the state and others have nothing?

What kind of equality or fraternity can exist between a beggar and a millionaire or billionaire? What rights do the poor have in this country that we have decreed a Christian nation?

What we have done is to establish a system of domination with all the resources of wealth and everything else in the hands of a group that maintains discrimination, marginalisation and excludes the rest of society from any real participation and from any real possibility of exercising their rights. Those of our people who don’t have resources can’t set themselves any political goals, because they are excluded.

Truly, the Council of Churches in Zambia is right in saying that there has been a departure from the democratic principles of 1991 and the objectives and aspirations of the 1990s have died down. Probably this is why those who were opposed to multiparty democracy and saw it as Stone Age politics; those who were opposed to the Movement for Multiparty Democracy today are at the helm of it. What can one truthfully expect from such people in terms of advancing multiparty democracy?

But this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in. it’s not enough to sloganeer about peace and reconciliation in the nation when we should all know very well that reconciliation comes only from the hearts of people.

Therefore, let’s look into our hearts, and let us look down into the faces of our children. Is there anything in the world that should stand in their way? None of the evil practices that we see in this country today mean anything when you look down into the faces of our children. In their faces we should see hope and not despair, our love and not hatred, and our courage and not fear.

Let’s honour the meaning of our Church. We can, somehow, by God’s grace, turn this around. We can give these children a future. We can take away their despair and give them hope by ensuring that the resources of our country don’t go to benefit just a few.

What this pastoral letter is teaching us is that by our daily deeds as ordinary Zambians we should strive to produce an actual Zambian reality that will enforce our belief in justice, strengthen our confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.

This pastoral letter seems to be rooted in the understanding that the individual does best in a strong and decent community of people with principles and standards and common aims and values. Leaders lead, but in the end the people govern.

What this pastoral letter is telling us is that politics is not a dirty game but is a genuine way of being at the service of others for the integral development of the country. Yes, every political party and individual candidate has the right to campaign for next year’s elections but they should do so with integrity, truth, justice and fairness. They should win not because their competitors are despised, but because they are understood, supported and trusted.

There is no choice between being principled and unelectable; and electable and principled. People should win because of what they believe in.

We want a nation of tolerance, innovation and creativity. We want a nation with an innate sense of fair play. Let us strive to build a nation with pride in itself; a thriving nation, rich in economic prosperity, secure in social justice, confident in political change; a land in which our children can bring up their children with a future to look forward to.

That should be our hope – the hope of our Church. Not just to promise democracy and good governance – but to achieve it. To achieve this, we need our Church to continue to be the conscience of our nation, a moral custodian and a fearless champion of the weak and downtrodden. And as we have stated before, the simple lesson of religions, of all philosophies and of life itself is that, although evil may be on the rampage temporarily, the good must win the laurels in the end.

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