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Joint Pastoral Statement On the Year of Political Responsibility

   

Joint Pastoral Statement On the Year of Political Responsibility
   
by The Christian Council of Zambia, The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, and The Zambian Episcopal Conference
   
October 1995
   
   

The first elections in Zambia’s Third Republic were contentious. The constitution was under review. To offer direction to the Nation in the last year before the elections, the Christian Church leaders in Zambia issued this “Joint Pastoral Letter on the Year of Political Responsibility”. They called for a deepening of principles of democracy, if the democratic process was to bear fruit. They called for “leadership of service”, modelled after Jesus Christ himself, who was of humble service in his earthly ministry (Jn 13:3-15). They called upon civil society to be vibrant enough to demand proper representation. Furthermore, the Church Leaders’ call for a popular adoption of the constitution and a quick updating of the voters’ register in preparation for the elections. The Church, on its part, committed itself to spearhead civic education, to inform and motivate citizens about their duty to vote, through sermons, crusades, prayer sessions, publications and media presentations.

Introduction

    We, Church Leaders, extend the hand of friendship to all people of good will and, in a special way, to all Christians. We call upon you and urge you to pray to the Lord for guidance for the coming elections, both local and National. May He help us make this a “Year of Political Responsibility”. Now is the time for reflection and for seeking advice on our civic responsibilities. It is written in Proverbs 11:14, “For want of guidance a people fails, safety lies in many advisers.”

    Hopes and Challenges

  1. We have many things to be thankful for since we changed from the one-party regime of the Second Republic to the multi-party democracy of the Third Republic. In contrast to many troubled African Nations, Zambia has been blessed with peace, and a measure of progress over the past four years. We are thankful to God for this. As we move into the fifth year of multiparty democracy, we urgently need to re-examine our political responsibility in order to promote the common good of all citizens of Zambia.

  2. We appreciate that people have been free to form political parties and thus provide options for political participation. We regret, however, that most parties suffer from unhealthy internal divisions and the politics of personalities. These prevent them from rendering effective service to the people.

    The ruling party seems intolerant of open debate within its ranks, while most opposition parties fail to articulate clear alternatives to Government policies.

  3. The growth of civil-society institutions (non-Government organisations) offers a wide range of participation to people. We applaud this as long as these organisations are not self-serving. We would like to see them assume greater role in informing people of their rights and responsibilities.

  4. The Structure Adjustment Programme (SAP) has brought some economic stability and opened up the possibilities for future growth. Its measures and implementation have caused great hardships for the poor who constitute the majority of our people. We therefore feel that SAP must be continually evaluated and reformed in terms of its effect on social justice and National well-being.

  5. The importance to our Country of agriculture cannot be over-stressed. We are hopeful that the Agricultural Sector Investment Programme (ASIP) will be implemented in such a way as to enable Zambia to feed itself.

    Needs over the coming “Year of Political Responsibility”

  6. The principles of democracy need to mature in our institutions and in our own personal political attitudes if the multiparty democracy of the Third Republic is to bear fruit.

  7. The Government must ensure that the voters’ register is updated and that the new Constitution is adopted by popular consent. We strongly feel that to be effective important institutions like the Electoral Commission, the Anti-corruption Commission and the proposed Human Rights Commission should be independent of the executive and free from political interference.

  8. On the part of leaders, there is a need for accountability to the public. Members of Parliament should visit their constituencies outside of the times of political campaigning. They should submit themselves to public forums where they can explain Government policies and can be questioned about their activities and performance.

  9. On the part of citizens, they need to register as voters, to vote intelligently, and to demand proper representation from the electoral officials. There is also need for greater honesty, tolerance of different views and rejection of tribalism and regionalism.

    Christian Call to Political Responsibility

  10. We Christians should be aware that politics is an area of great importance for promoting justice, peace, development and community among all Zambians. As Church leaders we are therefore greatly concerned that Christians are not exercising their civic privilege and right to vote. We share their anxiety that to a large extent their expectations have not been fulfilled by those who have been elected to positions of leadership. But this should not be a reason to abandon the right to vote altogether.

  11. We appeal to all Christians to realise that in a democracy, voting is the way to improving Government, choosing responsible leaders and fulfilling civic duties. History has shown that one vote, your vote, can make a difference!
  12. Leadership is for service. Jesus Himself showed us this by his own humble service, (Jn. 13:3-15). Hence it is binding on Christians to ensure that the right leaders are elected. We call on Christians not to shy away from engaging themselves in political social levels at all levels. The participation of Christians in political life is to be guided by the Gospel values of respect for human dignity, human rights, common good, social justice, solidarity, integral development, special concern for the poor and non-violence in resolving conflicts.

    Agenda for “Year of Political Responsibility”

  13. We propose that November 1995 to November 1996 be called a special “Year of Political Responsibility.” All Churches should focus on programmes to inform and motivate citizens to take steps to nurture our democracy. In a strictly non-partisan fashion, the Churches should assist the people to critically examine the institutions, attitudes, programmes and practices of all political parties, in an effort to improve on what we have achieved since 1991. By the activities of this “Year of Political Responsibility”, the Church will help the people to get more involved in the democratic process.

  14. Programmes will include:
    1. Special sermons to focus on values and principles of the Churches’ social teaching as applied to current Zambian needs (i.e., common good, hard work, option for the poor).
    2. Prayer sessions to ask for light and strength of the Holy Spirit in the forthcoming elections.
    3. “Crusade” style gatherings at various sport stadiums in the Country, to rally people, with instructions and prayer, around political responsibility.
    4. Information material prepared for use in Church communities, in schools and in other Church institutions.
    5. Medical presentations of these ideas (TV, Radio and Press).
    6. Cooperation with other organisations to foster this agenda.

    Conclusion

  15. We need to consider our responsibility in building the Kingdom of God, “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). We know we cannot achieve this purely by our own efforts as it says in Psalms 127:1, “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain the masons toil, if the Lord does not guard the city, in vain the sentries watch.”

  16. But neither does the Kingdom automatically come in response to prayer. To help bring the Kingdom into our midst, we must both pray and work:
    1. We need to both pray and work for peace.
    2. We must pray for justice but work to enact the laws that will remove all forms of oppression.
    3. We should keep the poor in our prayers, but also work to provide them with opportunities for employment, for education and for decent living conditions.
  17. We want this pastoral statement on the “Year of Political Responsibility” to be an encouragement and guide to all as we move forward to the local-Government and general elections. We prayerfully appeal to all citizens to maintain their traditional spirit of peace, respect and love towards one another.

    Rev. Sampa Bredt,     Gen Sec. - CCZ     Fr. Ignatius Mwebe,     Sec. Gen. - ZEC     Rev. Gabriel Schultz,     Chairman - EFZ