Friday, October 14, 2011

Cleansing by applying Christian principles

Cleansing by applying Christian principles
By The Post
Fri 14 Oct. 2011, 13:58 CAT

WHEN Michael Sata says the country needs religious cleansing, he says something significant and fundamental which deserves some attention and deep reflection. Zambia has been declared a Christian nation. What does this mean in the context of what Michael is saying? We are not here trying o debate the merits and demerits of the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation.

We are starting from the premise that Zambia is a Christian nation. The debate on whether or not this should have been done is not something we want to go into because it has been done.

When Michael says Zambia needs a religious cleansing, we must ask ourselves what this means. It does not make any sense to call a country Christian when injustice, oppression and exploitation of the poor are what rule the day.

A Christian nation should be governed according to Christian principles. Who would not want to live in a country that is governed by Christian principles? We say this because Jesus Christ lived an exemplary life and left many lessons which, if applied, would make life wonderful.

This is why we should welcome the call for religious cleansing. We all want a country where justice, peace, love and joy can be assured for all our people. It is nonsensical to claim to be a Christian nation and yet condone the exploitation of the poor by those in authority.

No one should be allowed to personalise resources meant to improve the welfare of our people. This is something that Rupiah Banda and his pack of ravenous henchmen did with impunity.

To them, running government was one endless party where state resources could be commandeered to meet their personal interests at will. Rupiah and his family became the chief procurement officers for all government contracts. To them, running government was about making money.

The impact of their behaviour on the lives of ordinary people meant nothing. If Rupiah and his family had love for our people and cared for their joy, if they were interested in upholding Christian principles, they would not have allowed themselves to abuse our people in the way that they did.

The slogan that Rupiah seemed to enjoy very much was ‘boma ni boma'. The translation of that slogan is that government is government. What that meant is that since government is government, it can do whatever it likes. It meant that government is above the law.

This was a slogan celebrating impunity. From his behaviour, Rupiah believed that he was above the law. Having elected Rupiah as president, we ended up with many presidents - his sons were also presidents. They could do whatever they wanted. Government policy and decision making was being controlled by Rupiah and sons.

They all got drunk with power and forgot who the real bosses were. Rupiah struck terror in the hearts and minds of those that surrounded him to the extent that some of his closest friends and supporters could not take it. They exploded and left. The Bembas have a nice saying that best describes Rupiah's inability to live and work with others.

It is a simple saying but its meaning is profound. When men are counselled for marriage, they are told this: ‘ukuteka imbwa mano. Uwatekele imbwa kuchipyu yaya.' The transliteration of this saying is simply this: even keeping a dog requires kindness. If you are cruel to your dog, it will run away.

Now if you have to be kind to a dog, what about human beings, those who are created in the image of God? Isn't it only normal and fitting that we should be kind to each other, and above that compassionate? Compassion requires that we feel for the suffering of our people.

This is the quality that best defines what Christianity is. This is what defines the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are taught that he came to earth to die for the sins of others.

He gave his best for the benefit of others. Even when he was dying on the cross, he had the heart to promise paradise to a thief who was cricified together with him.

This is the kind of religious renewal that this country needs. It is a cleansing of hearts so that each of us can look to the interests of those around us and make sure that we don't do things that destroy or disadvantage others.

It is this kind of religious renewal that will help our leaders to look at service as more important than the benefits that they get from being our leaders. As Michael calls for this religious cleansing, we hope, and let us add we pray, that he will demand selflessness from his colleagues in government.

Our people want to see a government that is truly compassionate and capable of identifying with their cries, their joys, their highs and their lows. We have had a government that was prepared to compromise our people's interests regardless of what the cost was.

In many ways, our government which claimed to be running a Christian country did not behave in a Christian way. We wonder whether Rupiah ever thought that he had an obligation that went beyond himself.

He had an obligation to our people to do the right thing and beyond that, he had an obligation to God. In a Christian nation, people do not do things for their own sake. They are supposed to do them because God commands them. And when there is this recognition, fighting corruption becomes easier, delivering services to our people will definitely improve.

We are taught in the Bible that the servants of God spoke for justice. Those who claimed to work for God, the prophets and others spoke for the poor and the voiceless. The clergy in the Bible were ambassadors for the downtrodden. Those who did otherwise were dismissed as imposters.

This is something that we hope to see in our country, a clergy that fearlessly holds those in power to account. We are not necessarily asking for public criticism of those in power. No. When this is necessary, by all means let it be done. But more importantly, when our clergy engage with our leaders privately, they need to be able to communicate as clearly as possible what the cries of our people are and how they can address them.

Rupiah abused the clergy by shamefully using them as his vuvuzelas. Some of our clergy joined the ranks of Edwin Lifwekelo, Gregory Chifire and even Humphrey Siulapwa. It was shameful to watch our clergy behave like paid megaphones hired to disseminate Rupiah's propaganda. There was nothing Christian about the way some of these clergymen behaved.

This call for religious cleansing deserves all our support. We say this because if our country learns to uphold the major tenets and themes of a Christian faith, we will be much better for it.

We believe that our societies will become more organised and better ordered if Christian principles are embraced. The rule of law can only be strengthened by the upholding of Christian principles. As Michael rightly said the other day, the Ten Commandments form the basis of the root of the law that we apply today.

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