“Your light must shine in the sight of men” [Matthew 5:16]
To all Zambians of Good Will!
The three Christian Church mother bodies, namely, the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ), and the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Since the joyful occasion of national independence in 1964, we have known that Independence was not the end but rather the beginning of a long and difficult road towards nation building. The Church has always called for unity, dedication and hard work from each and every citizen as necessary conditions if that nation building is ever to become a reality.
This year marks forty years since we started our nation building. As we celebrate now our fortieth independence anniversary with joy and thanksgiving, it is befitting to use the occasion to reflect on how, as a country, we have performed on our journey towards nation building and what challenges lie before us.
This is also an occasion for us, as Churches, to thank God for the gift of independence, and to look critically at our own contribution to the building of a better Zambia. We get our inspiration from the Scriptures where it is said “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. (Jeremiah 29:11-12).
Despite our country’s social diversity, we have been able to hold together, in unity, as citizens of Zambia. Today many Zambians have married or have strong friendships across ethnic lines. Many Zambians have also settled in different parts of the country which are not their native homes without any feeling of insecurity or not being accepted. Zambia has also become home to people of different racial backgrounds who play an active role in our country’s social, political and economic spheres. This achievement has by no means been accidental, but a result of God’s grace as well as the will and determination of our founding fathers and mothers to build one nation from numerous ethnic and racial groups. We should cherish and nurture this bond and never take it for granted. We should diligently guard against anything that would, through political expediency, threaten it.
Zambia has not known extreme civil strife to the level we see in some countries. The description of Zambia as an “Oasis of Peace” is indeed appropriate. For this reason, Zambia has played host to hundreds of thousands of refugees from some neighbouring countries and other parts of Africa beset by civil strife. We should celebrate the grace of having been spared from such extreme civil strife and also celebrate the opportunity we have been given to serve and give refuge to our brothers and sisters running from social and political instability.
The relative peace, stability and unity in Zambia also allowed us to give unreserved support to those brothers and sisters who were still in colonial bondage. In the four decades of our independence, the rest of Africa has been liberated. We should be happy as a country to have played a critical part in the emancipation of the African continent particularly in our region. Clearly, our immense sacrifices towards Africa’s liberation have not been in vain.
Notwithstanding various administrations Zambia has experienced, the country has been relatively stable politically. The country has undergone many political transitions, which have even seen change of governments. However these processes, though generating fierce political contest, have never degenerated into anarchy and the disintegration of the state. All major political problems have been resolved by either dialogue or the due process of the law.
During the colonial era, very little was done in terms of investment in human and infrastructure development. At the time of independence, in 1964, there was therefore a great challenge for Zambia to make education and health services available and accessible to all Zambians.
This could not be achieved without massive investment in health and educational facilities. In the past forty years of independence, hospitals and rural health centres have been constructed in all the districts. In addition we have our national referral hospital, the UTH, and two other major hospitals in Ndola and Kitwe. Infrastructure in education, in terms of primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions, outstanding among them being the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University, have been built and these have, over the years, produced the required human capital for the nation.
The policy of free education and health services played a critical role to accelerate the necessary investment in human development. That Zambia today is a significant exporter of highly skilled personnel is a testimony to this investment. It must be noted though that this is now negatively impacting upon our society, as we suffer from the so-called “brain Drain”.
We can also celebrate Zambia’s investment in other relevant infrastructure such as roads, electricity, telecommunications, and information technology. These are vital ingredients in the development of any country.
As we commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Zambia’s independence, we celebrate the fact that as a church we have not been mere spectators in nation building and national development. The churches have made and continue to make significant contributions in the areas of health, education, rural agricultural development programmes, youth empowerment and the fight against HIV/AIDS and its devastating effects on the family and society at large.
Though our well meant contributions have sometimes been misunderstood, we have also played our part in governance issues, always bringing in the moral and ethical dimension in the promotion of greater respect for human rights, the establishment of social justice, and strong concern for the poor.
We can celebrate and be thankful to God for the wonderful spirit of ecumenical cooperation that has marked our Church progress in Zambia. Health efforts (through the Churches Health Association of Zambia CHAZ) and joint pastoral letters are two examples of this cooperation. We can rejoice that we strive to live out what Jesus prayed for at the Last Supper, that we all may be one so that people will believe Jesus is the one sent by God (John 17:20-23)
Today we can look back as a nation and be happy about our achievements. But we also recognize learning points, which should serve as lessons in building our future. We can just mention a few cases in the various structures and sectors of our society.
After the Presidential Watershed Speech of 1968, Zambia went for wholesale nationalisation of major industries and the subsequent creation of a state-run economy. Whereas the reasoning at the time was to redistribute the benefits of our national resources to the majority of citizens, sufficient care was not taken over the years, to ensure continued productiveness of these industries. Political interference, mismanagement, lack of reinvestment, and personal greed killed many of these industries and this contributed to the general decline of our economy.
For a long time, Zambia relied on a mono-economy of copper mining. Our economy thrived in the initial years of our independence due to high revenues earned from copper production. However, our economic vulnerability was exposed with the decline of copper prices on the world market in early 1970s. This problem was compounded by the global oil crisis, which saw huge increases in the prices of oil on the world market. The diminished revenue from copper earnings and the increased price we had to pay for importing oil contributed to trade imbalances against Zambia. Thus Zambia went into massive borrowing from international financial institutions and creditor countries to meet our revenue short fall and hence the beginning of our current external financial indebtedness.
Even with clear problems in the copper industry, as a country we failed to develop credible economic alternatives. This is despite the fact that Zambia is endowed with an abundance of natural resources like fertile land, water, forests and tourist sites. We know that these are the same type of resources on which some thriving economies in other countries are anchored.
The failure of our economy led to social problems such as unemployment, poverty, and the persistence of curable diseases. It also led to the collapse of infrastructure and public services, and to a huge increase in our debt burden, now over US$6.5 billion. Zambia was once regarded as one of the richest countries in Africa. Today, sadly, it is one of the poorest nations in the world.
There was an opportunity and hope for a fresh start with the political and economic reforms of 1991 but it has ended up as a missed opportunity. The economic reforms of the 1990s, all too often externally imposed and not nationally owned, have not achieved the desired results. We have experienced massive privatisation of industries and yet the anticipated results of a vibrant private sector driven economy have not been realised. Industries have been closed, foreign capital has come in primarily not for production but for marketing, and unemployment and poverty have escalated.
This is another dark spot in the history of our country. At the time, there may have been justification to move away from multiparty politics, which had degenerated into violent divisions in the nation. It was then deemed necessary to introduce the One Party State, ushering in the Second Republic, in order to pull the country together in our quest for nation building. In time, the one party state proved a failure. It deteriorated into a totalitarian government synonymous with political intolerance, repression and the stifling of human rights. Too many crucial economic decisions were taken on political grounds, that is, how they would benefit the ruling party.
The “Third Republic”, in 1991, presented a window of opportunity for genuine political reforms but again we seem to have lost the initial vision of rebuilding our democracy and embarking on national development. The gains that were made at the beginning of the 1990s, in terms of building a genuine multi-party spirit, greater enjoyment of liberties and social progress, have in the main been greatly reduced over the decade. It is disheartening that Zambia today is still grappling with constitutional development in a manner that reveals more partisan interest than national interest. The 1964 Constitution, in spite of its deficiencies, formed a solid foundation on which we could have built a true democracy. Instead subsequent Executive arms of government have always tended to temper with the constitution as their private property to be tailor-made to suit their personal objectives. Until we have a constitution that reflects the wishes and aspirations of the people of Zambia, genuine democracy will not be achieved.
Human beings have always been tempted to make dishonest decisions for self-benefit and we Zambians have not escaped that failing. But as our economic difficulties grew over the years, we have experienced a growth in the cancer of corruption. While we might today speak of corruption at the highest levels as “plunder of the national resources”, we know that corrupt practices also exist at the lower levels (e.g., petty bribes, the favouritism of tribalism and nepotism). It is indeed a political set-back in our development that Zambia is perceived as a highly corrupt country, a fact we surely did not foresee or hope for in the valiant struggle for Independence.
Due in part to the harsh economic situation, poverty levels have gone up. More than two thirds of our people are estimated to be living in abject poverty. Our cherished social relations such as our extended family ties are threatened with collapse. With the increase in the number of orphans whom the wider family system has failed to accommodate, Zambia today is experiencing a growing number of street children.
What is compounding the deterioration of the social situation in Zambia today is the inadequate support to the health and education sectors by government. The problem of under-funding to the sectors has led to brain drain by the failure of these sectors to retain adequate professional personnel. Further, utility resources, e.g., water and sanitation, are also constrained, thus compromising the quality of services offered by these sectors.
Zambia has been a generous host to sisters and brothers displaced from troubled countries. It has been our honour and privilege to serve Jesus Christ, who was also once a refugee, through our fellow human beings at their greatest moment of need. This commitment, nonetheless, meant stretching the little resources our country has to accommodate our guests. This has not been an easy matter for a weak economy like ours. But even more, Zambia became a target for destabilisation by colonial powers pursuing freedom fighters and many Zambians were killed or displaced especially in border areas. Land mines still lie on our territory and injure and kill our people and hinder our agricultural development. The proliferation of arms from fleeing freedom fighters and refugees have in some cases found themselves in wrong hands and contributed to the escalation of crime. And sometimes we are also slowly becoming unfriendly to the few refugees remaining in our country.
The mid-1980s presented Zambia, the sub-region and the rest of the world with the rapid spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We Churches were among the first institutions to make public the warning that we were faced with a catastrophic disease, when addressing this issues in our joint Pastoral Statement on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Choose to Live (1988). Almost twenty years later, the country has made very little progress towards the control of this pandemic. Every facet of our life is affected. The disease has increased the burden of our already under-resourced hospitals and decreased the efficiency of our educational system. It has put pressure on our economy and above all it has destabilised our social order. There is now an unprecedented upsurge in orphans and child-headed homes. Our cherished extended family system is failing to cope.
As indicated above, Zambia is endowed with rich natural resources. Unfortunately, we have not taken the best care for this environment on which we depend for our survival. Over the years we have seen massive deforestation, due to the ever increasing need for fuel wood. Lack of access to electricity coupled by high ZESCO tariffs have encouraged charcoal burning. This is compounded by the chitemene system and forest fires. In the cities, we see a lot of pollution through careless disposal of both liquid and solid waste. Our industries (especially mining) have not always been careful in interacting with the environment. In the end, our future generations shall be the ones to suffer the negative consequences of environmental degradation.
The voice of the Church in matters of public interest has at various times generated different feelings from the Government and individual citizens. Since independence, Church leaders, either as individual churches or in cooperation, have produced numerous Pastoral Letters. Through these letters and many other avenues, the Church has always brought its moral conscience to bear upon critical national issues. Landmarks to note include the threat of Scientific Socialism in 1979, renewal of economic development in 1987, the question of HIV/AIDS in 1988, the return to multi-party politics in 1991, the social crisis of the late 1990s, the third term issue of 2001, and the current raging debate on the constitution. To all these experiences, and many others, the Church has provided indispensable input of analysis and direction. Central to this active role of the Church, has been the ability to speak as one voice. This Pastoral Statement for our Fortieth anniversary is clear testimony of that close cooperation among the Churches where social issues are concerned.
However, we must honestly acknowledge that this strong position of the Church and its unity of purpose have in later years been threatened by the proliferation of churches. There have been clear attempts to split and weaken the unified voice of the Church. This has brought about confusion in both faith and morals. It is therefore the responsibility and challenge of Church leaders to further reflect on their calling to speak clearly as did the great prophets of the Old Testament and the greatest prophet of the New Testament, Jesus Christ our Saviour. We have to continue to work towards unity and accept our legitimate differences.
It is important for us to emphasise that our role and mission in society, as churches, come from the Lord Jesus himself who said, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations… and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Inspired by the Gospel, we have a duty to propose specific values and principles for a shared vision of a good society. Faithful to the Lord’s injunction in Matthew 25: 31-46, “to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick…”, the Churches must bear the burden of those in need, not alone, but working with government and civil society, so as to allow the full participation of everyone in the life of our nation.
Even as we celebrate and thank God for the many graces we have received as a country during our forty years of independence, today Zambia continues to be faced by serious challenges that still call for hard work, commitment, selflessness, and above all, humility before our Creator for his unconditional support. Among these challenges are:
At forty years, Zambia needs a massive and coordinated commitment to reverse the current trend of deterioration. First of all, the country needs to have a clear national vision and direction genuinely articulated by our national leadership.
There must be specific areas of focus, with clear time frames, that can promote a positive impact on development. We applaud the current focus on food production because independence would be meaningless if we cannot feed ourselves as a country. But we feel more needs to be done beyond the current initiatives such as more attention to strengthen our small-scale farmers. Equal attention must be given to the education and health sectors.
A national vision hinges in part on a good, popular, and fully legitimated national constitution, made in such a way as to stand the test of time. Such a constitution can greatly contribute to the building a national vision since the fundamental hopes and aspirations of every nation are founded on this important national document.
God has granted every Zambian the stewardship of one gift or another for the common benefit of all Zambians. We need to pool these gifts for the common good of the country. We need a change of attitude where Zambians will derive greater joy in serving their country than in pursuing personal gain. However, this type of commitment will only be achieved if all are seen to sacrifice for the country. We call upon those in leadership at all levels to lead by example by living these values. Let us be inspired by the promise God gave to the people of Israel, that they would be able to rebuild what had been ruined and enjoy the goods of creation. (Amos 9:14).
To be sincere, our type of politics has too frequently contributed to the ruin of this country. Do we always wonder why politics is referred to as a “dirty game”? Why are our politicians today not trusted? Is it not because they have failed or rather not even attempted to meet the aspirations of the people despite their lofty promises during electioneering? Many politicians do not take their positions as those of service but as occasions to amass wealth at the expense of the poor. We therefore call for change of attitudes among our politicians. They should be men and women of integrity, people who are sincere, who care for the poor, who see their role as that of service and stewardship.
We therefore make a special appeal to Christians in public life and all levels of leadership to be the light and salt of Zambia. As Scripture says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men”. (Matthew 5:13-16). We are yet to see the impact that our many prominent Christians are making in their various areas of involvement. We must dispel the mistaken notion that the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church means autonomy of the political order from morality!
We need Christians who are not afraid to challenge injustice at all levels in the nation. Time has come for Christians to live out their faith by standing up for their faith. Remember what James teaches us: “Faith without works is dead!” (James 2:17) We Christians can make a difference in our country if we get fully involved in national affairs by bringing morality to bear on all national processes.
Through Baptism we are called to be “another Christ”, shown through the name “Christian” which we bear. Our life as citizens, ordinary workers or professionals is an essential vehicle to enlighten our colleagues and friends in their own lives and behaviour. Every member of the lay faithful, whether peasant farmer, police officer, minister, teacher, home-keeper, garbage collector or businessperson, is called to holiness and ought to embrace his or her vocation as a child of God. Your calling is to be lived out in the world where your witness of life should shine before people so that the latter “may give praise to the Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 16).
The Christian view of humanity is one that is based on everlasting hope. Not withstanding the many challenges that we are confronted with as a country, we should not despair. We should still discern opportunities God has endowed us with. Zambia can prosper again but only if every Zambian contributes his or her share of hard work, commitment, selflessness and honesty.
Christianity is founded on the principles that all human beings are God’s children and should therefore treat one another charitably and justly, with respect and dignity. Thus we should come together as human beings in friendly recognition of one another’s worth and collaborate to repair and improve the world around us. There lies our hope for the future of this nation.
We have shared this letter with you, dear sisters and brothers, in response to the need for all of us, as we celebrate Zambia’s Forty years of Independence, to be thankful to God for the past and hopeful for the future. We take seriously the call of the Apostle Peter, “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you” (1Peter 3:15). Let us share that hope with each other!
Presented to the Nation on 17th October 2004 on the occasion of the Inter-denominational Thanksgiving Day for our Forty Years of Independence.
Signed:Most. Rev. Telesphore-George MpunduCo-adjutor Archbishop of LusakaPresident – Zambia Episcopal Conference
Bishop Thuma Hamukan’ganduChairperson – Zambia Council of Churches
Bishop Harrison SakalaChairperson – Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia