"The Lord hears the cry of the poor" is a refrain from a popular religious song. But it is also an echo of a fundamental message in the Bible. Christians are challenged to hear the cry of the poor, the cry of those who suffer social problems in our midst today.
The Catholic Bishops have reminded their Church members – the wider Zambian public – of this challenge in a powerful ‘pastoral statement’ released on 16th June 2000. The release of the Statement coincided with a National day of prayer and fasting, a day called by the bishops to encourage Christians to be in solidarity with the suffering people around us and to beg God’s help to effectively respond to that suffering.
The pastoral statement might be considered by some to be too ‘political’ But it is certainly not partisan in the sense of endorsing any particular party or candidate. It rather emphasises the responsibilities of all parties, politicians, Government and non-Governmental groups and the Church itself to recognise the serious nature of the social crisis in the Country and how necessary is an ordering of priorities that puts a response to the socials crisis first.
The Church is promising a follow-up to this pastoral statement. Without such a well-planned and well supported follow-up, the Statement faces the tragedy of only offering more words to the great majority of Zambians (close to 80%) who need deeds, actions, and commitments.
"Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break the unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes? Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own relatives?" (Isaiah 58:6-7)