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Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Zambia Mr. F.J.T. Chiluba

 

Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Zambia Mr. F.J.T. Chiluba
 
RE: 1994 International Conference on Population and Development

 

 
September 1994

 

 

 

 

This Open Letter was a reaction to the draft United Nations Action Plan that was to be discussed at the 1994 International Conference on Population. The Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops (African Synod) had also expressed some objections of the recommendations of the draft UN Action Plan especially when it recommended the wider use of contraception in order to end unsafe illegal abortions, and to include sterilisation and abortion as birth control methods. The Synod urged the different local Churches to lobby their Governments not to accept such measures.

The Zambian bishops first of all appreciate the positive aspects of the UN Draft Action Plan. They appreciate the Plan’s concern for sexual health. They praise all people involved in the prevention of the deadly HIV virus and those who care for the AIDS sufferers. Then they point out the aspects of the Action Plan they do not agree with. They do not agree with the use of the artificial means of regulating birth and they fear that this could include what they call “inadmissible and morally reprehensible recourse such as sterilisation and abortion.” They further state that: “abortion is destruction of existing human life and cannot be offered as a responsible tool of population policy or a permissible means of family planning.” The bishops do not agree that “better quality of life” is a supreme value which must be pursued at all cost and at the altar of which moral, spiritually and cultural values of human life must be sacrificed. They also totally reject the Plan’s intention to indiscriminately provide family planning services to the adolescents and the unmarried because this will promote licentiousness. The bishops strongly advocate the use of responsible parenthood and the use of Natural Family Planning method, which they point out, has been proven to be effective. The bishops are also not happy with the concept of the family contained in the Plan which they say is at variance with the understanding of the family as “the proper setting for the conception, birth and upbringing of children and is the cell or basic unit of society.” They disapprove of the Draft Plan’s statement: “family in all its various forms.”

The bishops appealed to the Zambian Government to be critical of the programmes that set targets for and strictly advocate population decline in developing countries. They suggest that the West can support the seeming population problem by the transfer of technology through skills training to utilise resources more efficiently; support health institutions instead of promoting and funding free abortion on demand; writing off heavy debt, and that the international community stop the sale of arms to Africa.

Introduction

    We, Bishops of the Catholic Church in Zambia, would like to bring to your attention our observations concerning the United Nations sponsored 1994 International Conference on Population and Development to be held in Cairo, Egypt, in September this year. We have read the Draft UN Action Plan on population control parts of which have been appearing in the international media, and we avail ourselves of this opportunity to communicate to you our response to the document.

    Acknowledgement And Concern

  1. We acknowledge that the draft UN Action Plan has some clear, positive goals and commendable objectives such as gender equity, reduction of the number of deaths related to pregnancy and child birth, infant and child morality rates, provision of primary school education for every child. If all Governments and organisations pursue these noble objectives the result would be better health, higher quality of life for people especially in developing countries.

  2. The same Action Plan, however, proposes other objectives which pose a grave danger to humanity in general and to Third World populations in particular. Here we single out two objectives for special mention because of their openness to all forms of interpretation and therefore are potentially dangerous.
    1. “Improve access to reproductive care and better family planning services...”
    2. “Other measures related to improving the quality of life with greater equity...”

  3. As Church leaders in this Country we appreciate the concern for sexual health; we commend and fully support efforts to prevent, control and cure STDs. We acclaim all people involved in preventing the spread of the deadly HIV through education of the public and other morally acceptable ways and those who are caring for persons suffering from HIV infection and AIDS. In the past we have strongly emphasised the importance of responsible parenthood, maternal and childcare in our health care programmes and we will continue to do so in the future.

    Implications Of The Open-Ended Statements

  4. We are, however, extremely distrustful of the so-called “improved access to productive health care and better family planning services”. Given the UN Draft’s support for wider access to artificial contraceptives and an international effort to end unsafe, illegal abortions, this could only mean extending birth control measures to include inadmissible and morally reprehensible recourse such as sterilisation and abortion. Abortion is destruction of existing human life and cannot be offered as a respectable tool of population policy or a permissible means of family planning. The 1984 Mexico City International Conference on Population Statement and census on abortion have not even been mentioned by the Draft Action Plan justifying our suspicion that the Western view of permissive abortion is being forced on other Nations with different cultural and religious values in the name of “freedom of choice.”

  5. “Other measures related to improving the quality of life...” is an open ended statement which could be construed to mean that the end justifies the means thereby giving into and accommodating anything from the reasonable and respectable to the morally, spiritually and culturally outrageous. We cannot subscribe to the dangerous fallacy, which is implied here that “better quality of life” is the supreme value, which must be pursued at all costs and at the altar of which moral, spiritually, and cultural values of human life must be sacrificed. Besides, development or “better quality of life” is reduced to the narrow confines of material well-being, easier acquisition of wealth and greater availability of services.

  6. We totally reject and denounce the draft Action Plan’s obvious intention to provide “family planning services” indiscriminately especially to adolescents and unmarried people thereby promoting licentiousness and sweeping aside the several moral, spiritual and social repercussions of early and wholesale sexual activity. There should be no sex before or outside marriage.

  7. We are alarmed that the entire UN draft document is permeated by a strange and distasteful ideology of “reproductive rights” and lifestyle “right of choice” in matters of sexual behaviour. No corresponding stress is placed on the importance of moral responsibility of individuals and couples, to themselves and to society, thereby undermining, if not altogether negating, the good things it says about the rights and obligations of both men and women. Marriage, the foundation of family, so natural and universal is totally ignored and marginalized as peripheral and antiquated.

  8. We share the concern of Governments and agencies with regard to rapid population growth in this Country and in other developing nations. However, we strongly advocate responsible parenthood as the most judicious and satisfactory approach to the problem. We want to emphasise that it is solely the responsibility of parents to make an enlightened decision as to the number of children they ought to have, using the means that respect the dignity of human nature and objective moral values, and taking into account the resources available to the couples for the proper upbringing of their offspring. We bemoan the deliberate sidelining of the Scientific Natural Family Planning method by the Draft Action Plan even though its effectiveness, reliability and integral well-being of its users have been scientifically proved in recent years.

    THE CONCEPT OF THE FAMILY

  9. In this International year of the Family (IYF) we find it incomprehensive that the UN Draft Action Plan opted to be equivocal with regard to the concept of family, as we understand, it is that union of persons established by marriage between husband and wife. It is the proper setting for the conception, birth and upbringing of children and is the cell or basic unit of society. Consequently we strongly disapprove of the Draft’s Statement: “family in all its various forms” which could be expanded to include all forms of extramarital cohabitation or even, the elephant, and other endangered animal species.

  10. We are also surprised if not alarmed that in this IYF nothing is said about saving the family and yet there are world wide campaigns to save the white rhino, the elephant, and other endangered animal species.

    CALL TO THE GOVERNMENT

  11. We are deeply distrustful of, and would like to urge the Zambian Government to critically examine, the intentions of Western Governments and International Agencies with the tendency to endorse strategies that set targets for and strictly advocate population decline in developing countries while at the same time encouraging and rewarding higher fertility rates in their own countries. We decry the linkage between receiving development assistance and the wholesale and uncritical adoption of unfavourable population policies. Political leaders and policy makers in the developing countries ought to be aware that behind seemingly benevolent and philanthropic programmes lie influential nations, International Agencies, Trans-National Corporations and opulent individuals with hidden agendas, ulterior motives and vested interest totally at variance with our religious, moral cultural values and an affront to our human dignity and African identity. Against this background the objectives and accuracy of assessments of issues in a matter as complex as the global population situation, which varies not only from continent to continent but also from one region to another, cannot be taken for granted.

    CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS

  12. In conclusion, we would like to re-emphasise that we support the call to check the rate at which our population is growing, but this, in the Zambian context, should not be over sensationalised, and lead to panic measures. Zambia, and Africa as a whole has a great resource potential to cope with its population growth, given the right conditions. The real genuine remedial support the West can offer to our seeming population problem is in the areas of:
    1. Facilitating the transfer of technology through skills training in order to enable us to utilise our abundant resources more efficiently to meet the needs of our growing population. This is in fact what is implied in Genesis 1:28 when God tells us to be fruitful and multiply and follows it with the command to “subdue the earth” God wants us to cultivate the land and grow enough food to support our population. In this sense, children ought to be considered as an asset or a resource and not as a liability destructive of the environment.
    2. Supporting our health education programmes instead of promoting and funding free abortion and on demand.
    3. Writing off our heavy “debt” burden that continues to choke our economics so that our resources are wholly directed towards the well being of our people.
    4. Positive response to the call by the pontifical Commission for justice and peace on Arms trade (1) that the international community discontinue the sale of Arms to Africa. This promotes conflicts and diverts our energies from developing our resources.

  13. In this International year of the Family, we appeal to you, Mr President, to rally to the defence of the Family by conveying to the United Nations and Leaders of other Governments especially in the developing countries our fears and anxieties. We earnestly urge you to ensure that the Zambian Delegation to the forthcoming Cairo Conference supports only a programme of action, which will ensure the protection of life, from conception to the grave, Marriage and Family, the respect for human dignity and our African values. We would not like to see Zambia’s birthright cheaply auctioned away on the world market of “International Development Aid”. What is at stake here is not just the institutions of marriage and family, to which the draft Action Plan pays lip service, but humanity itself is faced with a very serious menace. We want Zambia to play its rightful and leading role in defence of life, humanity and sanity.

Yours faithfully,

Rt. Rev. T.G. Mpundu, Chairman, Bishop of Mbala/Mpika

For The Catholic Bishops of Zambia

    Most Rev. Adrian Mung’andu,   Archbishop of Lusaka   Most Rev. James Spaita,   Archbishop of Kasama   Rt. Rev. Raymond Mpezele,   Bishop of Livingstone   Rt. Rev. Medardo Mazombwe,   Bishop of Chipata   Rt. Rev. Paul Lungu S.J.,   Bishop of Monze, Vice Chairman   Rt. Rev Aaron Chisha,   Bishop of Mansa   Rt. Rev. Dennis de Jong,   Bishop of Ndola   Very Rev. Fr Noel O’Regan SMA,   Administrator, Solwezi Diocese   Most Rev. Adam Kozlowiecki,   Retired Archbishop of Lusaka   Rt. Rev. James Corboy S.J.,   Retired Bishop of Monze