Monday, March 24, 2014

Rupiah and forgiveness
By Editor
Sun 08 Dec. 2013, 14:00 CAT

Rupiah Banda says he hopes Nelson Mandela's death will help to unite all Zambians as that would be the best way of honouring a great leader who taught humanity the virtue of forgiveness. The virtue of forgiveness was first and best taught to humanity by Christ. The greatest example of reconciliation was given to us by Christ.

Christ is our peace because he has reconciled us to God. That reconciliation continues daily in the life of each one of us through our love of God and one another. That is the challenge of the Christian code: "Love one another…Forgive one another as God has forgiven you in Christ… Bear one another's burdens…Blessed are the peacemakers…"

And we all know that when Rupiah speaks of forgiveness, he is speaking of himself, about himself, for himself. Rupiah is in trouble for corruption and other abuses of public office. He is being prosecuted for these abuses and crimes and wants forgiveness. Rupiah doesn't want to be responsible for his wrongs. But the rule of law requires that those who commit crimes be prosecuted, be brought to justice.

So far, well known leaders have made "forgiveness and reconciliation" a meaningless motto, because our people can see through the selfishness of their calls to forgiveness and reconciliation.

The process of reconciliation and forgiveness involves the seeking of truth that ensures sincere and lasting forgiveness. It also presupposes justice. And as Pope John Paul II once observed, "There is no contradiction between forgiveness and justice. Forgiveness neither eliminates nor lessens the need for reparation which justice requires."
Forgiveness is not possible without a genuine repentance of evil. And Mandela and his comrades in the African National Congress fully recognised that fact. To fulfil that, they created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where those who committed wrongs or crimes had to confess their crimes or wrongs and seek forgiveness. This is the reconciliation and forgiveness Mandela led and believed in. But this is not the reconciliation and forgiveness Rupiah seems to believe in. We saw what Rupiah means when he talks about reconciliation and forgiveness in the way he "freed" Frederick Chiluba from going to prison for corruption and in the way he allowed him and his tandem of thieves to keep their loot, the money they had stolen from the Zambian people. This Rupiah calls forgiveness. This is not the forgiveness Mandela believed in and practiced. Mandela never encouraged impunity. Reconciliation and forgiveness is not possible without a genuine repentance of evil. Justice demands that we give every human being one's due. It is a virtue that prompts us to recognise the rights of others and forbids us to hinder their legitimate exercise.

As Mandela himself once put it, "We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice." Justice has to be defended and promoted; injustice has to be fought and denounced.

We still remember very well how Levy Mwanawasa tried very hard to open Chiluba to forgiveness for the corruption and abuses of office he had engaged in. Levy told Chiluba to surrender a part of what he had stolen and be forgiven.

Forgiveness is easy when the violators see the pain they have caused us and sincerely apologise for their wrongdoing. The trouble is that some of them are hard-core criminals and very proud individuals who are never ready to admit their wrongs and apologise. They feel that if they do, they diminish in our estimation, forgetting the truth that admitting a wrong, crime is a sign of greatness.

It would be unhealthy for society not to punish crimes. Certainly, we ought not to grant others the right to give us ulcers.

Our peace of mind depends not primarily on the things that happen to us but on the way we look at those things. We can choose to have angry and uncritical thoughts or excusing and forgiving thoughts.

And moreover, the forgiveness that we saw in South Africa was not something new in our region. We saw it here in Zambia at independence. A year after independence, Kenneth Kaunda assured: "British or other Commonwealth persons living in Zambia, whether they be citizens or residents, should have no fears at all. We act on principles and not on necessity."
There is no single country in southern African that went on rampage victimising its former oppressors. There was no victimisation of anyone in Zimbabwe after independence. Ian Smith enjoyed a full and free life under the rule of people his regime had tortured, humiliated and mutilated. The same can be said of Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. The Angolans are even now giving money to their former economically troubled colonisers - Portugal. Reconciliation and forgiveness seems to be very much a culture of our people and our region. We wish others had treated us this way when they had the power!

Selfishness or pride is the primary block to awareness in our lives. Love is the greatest virtue: Love your neighbour as yourself. And Dr Kaunda repeatedly preaches this message to us. Let us grasp the significance of it. It is not mere sloganeering on the part of this comrade, the son of a preacherman. Even Mandela says, "I wanted South Africa to see that I loved even my enemies while I hated that system that turned us against one another."

Punishing crime or wrongdoing is not a sign of one lacking forgiveness and a spirit of reconciliation. We were taught that there was a constant struggle between good and evil, and evil had to be punished. We were also taught that those who commit crimes and were responsible for injustice, evil would be punished in hell. Could that be interpreted as an expression of lack of forgiveness and not having a spirit of reconciliation? There is no greater love for a person who commits crimes than to prevent him from committing more crimes and continuing to live under the shadow of crime. We need to condemn crime, wrongdoing, but love the criminal, the wrongdoer. Let us then look at these people differently. The choice is ours.


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