13 November 2012

Zambia: State, Church Link Vital for Zambia

THE Government has demonstrated tolerance and magnanimity by revoking the deportation of Lundazi Catholic Parish Priest Father Viateur Banyangadora, who was ushered out of the country about three months ago.

In doing so, the Government has fortified its relationship with the Church, particularly the Catholic, which has been the torch bearer in social justice and development.

No doubt, the Catholic Church has the largest following in the world among the Christian faithful with its establishment spanning to all parts of the country including rural outposts not covered by the Government.

The Catholic Church has truly been the 'voice of the voiceless' and offered quality education and health care in institutions spread across the country.

It has learning institutions from pre-school, primary, secondary, and tertiary education up to the highest level at the Catholic University in Kalulushi and St Eugene University in Lusaka.

In the health sector, the Catholic Church has health centres and hospitals some of which run training programmes for nurses such as Chilonga School of Nursing in Mpika and St Pauls Mission Hospital and Nursing Training School in Nchelenge.

Examples abound.

In human rights and advocacy programmes, the Catholic Church has a number of units which include Caritas Zambia.

Therefore, the spirit of forgiveness exhibited in this particular case has authenticated the inevitable need for the two social partners to strengthen their relationship.

The Catholic Church the world over has been providing an oversight role which is meant to check excesses on part of the Executive wing of Government.

Checks and balances are an important ingredient in any democratic dispensation, without which there could be excessive actions in the governance system.

However, all social partners including the Church must not overstep their boundaries.

It is for this reason that Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu has warned stakeholders against abusing their oversight or religious roles through issuing alarming statements and falsehoods.

While Zambia embraces the freedom of expression and other forms of freedoms in the Republican Constitution, such provisions in the statutes have limits.

Freedoms must not be overstretched as this can be tantamount to abuse, which invariably amounts to contravention of the law.

We are aware that the Patriotic Front Government, upon assuming office, set in motion the Constitution review process by establishing the Technical Committee on Drafting of the Zambian Constitution.

The Government is thus intent on ensuring that the law of the land is all-inclusive.

It is worth noting that the State has demonstrated its commitment to upholding the rule of law and has also committed itself to coming up with a Constitution which will stand the test of time.

In the draft Constitution, under the Bill of Rights, there is a proposal to guarantee freedoms, including the freedom of expression.

Our appeal to members of the clergy and other Church leaders is that they should maintain humility, truth, honesty, and openness in the way they deal with governance issues.

We are not in any way suggesting that they should not point out excesses or omissions by the Government, no.

They must continue providing that fundamental role in the interest of the nation without overstepping their boundaries or contravening very clear statutes.

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