“Thus Far the Lord has Brought Us” (1 Sam 7:12
The Joint Pastoral letter on the occasion of Zambia’s Golden Jubilee Independence Celebration by the Three Christian Church Mother Bodies
“You will declare this fiftieth year sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the inhabitants of the land. This is to be a jubilee for you …” (Leviticus 25: 10)
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), joyfully greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This year marks fifty years since that joyful occasion of gaining our national independence on 24th October 1964. Our greatest gratitude goes to God the Almighty who has brought us thus far (I Sam 7:12) and kept us together in peace and unity (Psalm 46:12) and we pray that the Lord in his mercy continues to stay with us (Luke 24:29).
On this occasion of national importance, we convey our sincere gratitude to our selflessly founding fathers and mothers including those still with us today as well as those whom the Lord has called, for their valuable contribution to what we are as Zambia today.
The Jubilee year is time to celebrate our achievements and build on them. This is a time to learn from our mistakes in order to build a better future for our country.
2. THANKING GOD FOR HIS MANY BLESSINGS UPON US
We have many reasons to rejoice and celebrate in the context of our Golden Jubilee. We note with gratitude that the absence of war and extreme civil strife in our country has provided great opportunity for economic growth and social development. Even in those trying moments of potential disintegration, we have always emerged as a united society and forged forward as one nation. We pray that this resilience remains within us and that all will work towards guarding our peace jealously.
We also thank God that here in Zambia, the State and the Church have over the years partnered in the work of development and especially the provision of social services such as education, health and social welfare. Despite some occasional differences in perception on issues of governance, we can be proud that every government has by and large allowed the Church to do its work of evangelization.
Although our politics are far from being mature, we still remain a relatively stable multiparty democracy. Since independence, we have had smooth and peaceful political transitions.
In a spirit of true solidarity and commitment to the love of neighbour, Zambia invested time and resources in supporting the liberation struggles in the region and the rest of Africa. Zambia has also been a true home for many refugees and a place of solace as well as a safe haven for people fleeing from civil wars and conflicts in their troubled countries.
The attainment of independence in 1964 has over the years seen evolvement and growth in the liberties of Zambians. The country has moved from the colonial legacy of racism and deprivation to an era where every person is treated with dignity. Zambia has by and large seen economic growth and increased participation in economic activities by the Zambian population. We acknowledge with gratitude the strides made in investing in education, health, infrastructure and other social services. The challenge though still remains for Zambia to put in place better redistributive policies so that the majority poor and the most vulnerable in our society are not left to be mere spectators in the current economic prosperity.
We thank God for blessing our country with such a variety and abundance of natural resources. However, God’s endowment of these resources imposes obligations on us of justice, equity and good stewardship.
3. CHALLENGES FACED BY OUR NATION IN THE PAST, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
Whereas some benefits were derived from political and economic reforms, such as nationalization, one party participatory democracy, most sectors of the countries were heavily affected. The country could not sustain itself economically. Industries could not generate sufficient income for our economy. The country, compounded by the decline in copper prices, was pushed into excessive borrowing from international financial institutions until it was caught up in an unsustainable debt of more than 7 billion dollars. This has left an indelible foot print on the economy of Zambia and peoples’ livelihoods whose effects are still being felt today.
We are in fact seriously concerned and saddened to see how our country is once again slowly degenerating into unguarded practice of debt contraction. Whilst borrowing is not be entirely avoided considering our limited and meager internal revenue, we fully support the calls for stronger oversight on debt contraction by the legislature so that Zambia does not reverse the gains of debt forgiveness and slip back into another debt trap.
The extreme and unsustainable welfare policies introduced by the government at the time had a big toll on the economy and consequently the welfare of the people.
The decision to outlaw multi-party politics in preference for a one party state system retarded the development of democratic institutions. Much as we have problems with our multi-party politics today, we should congratulate ourselves as a country for returning to a plural political and liberalized economic system in 1991.
The austerity measures of economic reforms such as Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) had a toll more so on those who were already weak and poor.
4. DEFINING OUR FUTURE WITH FAITH AND HOPE
Jubilee year is essentially a time of renewal, restoration, forgiveness and offering of new possibilities as liberated sons and daughters of God (Leviticus 25). It is also a time for recommitment to the rebuilding of Zambia’s nationhood. It is a time of healing through genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a time to restructure our political, social, economic and cultural systems and structures and put in place ones that will promote social justice, the common good and integral development for all Zambians.
We call upon all Christians, people of other faiths and people of good will to recommit themselves to the noble project of building a better Zambia anchored on Christian values of love, truth, unity, hospitality, responsibility, social justice, compassion and solidarity, accountability.
As a country, we must strive to promote and practice civil politics which recognizes the rights of others to associate, organize and communicate. We must rekindle the spirit of nation building that has been lost through the growing spirit of individualism and materialism. The spirit of ‘One Zambia - One Nation’ must be recalled and actively lived through our policies, programmes and practices
We call upon those entrusted with stewardship of public goods like power, institutions and resources to exercise their responsibility with transparency and commitment to the common good of the Zambian people.
We also note that there are still unacceptable high levels of poverty in Zambia and disproportionate development biased towards urban areas while rural areas have persistently been neglected. We demand to see genuine commitment by our government to rural development.
We use this opportunity of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our independence to call upon government to unblock the constitution making process that has stalled for a longtime now by releasing the final draft of the constitution to the public and guaranteeing a clear and inclusive road map that will lead to the conclusion of the constitution making process through a national referendum and in a timely manner.
We call upon political leaders to educate their members on the value of civil and peaceful politics. Zambia needs strong issue-based political parties which would give citizens a genuine space for political participation.
We also call on Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to commit themselves to genuine service of the people and good stewardship. We acknowledge that governance practices and stewardship of financial resources has been a challenge for many CSOs. We urge CSOs to be beacons of accountability even to the beneficiaries in whose name resources are raised.
As for the youth, we call upon them to demand their space; make demands for the better and refuse to be used as mere tools of violence by politicians. Your future is now! The youth must be an integral part of our development process.
We also call upon our traditional leaders to be a uniting force for their people, a focal point for everyone regardless of their political affiliations. We demand to see more regulatory control on traditional authorities on their management of natural resources in order to prevent abuse and ensure that the common good is the cornerstone of their actions and decisions.
The Church should remain vigilant to its prophetic mission of being ‘the conscience of society.’ It should endeavor to promote social justice and the common good through evangelisation. It has to examine its own practices and lifestyle. We are therefore saddened by the increasing reports of men who profess to be servants of God engaging in vices that contradict or offend God’s teachings. The Church must examine its rank and file and route out those whose motive is to tarnish its name and the image of God. To our faithful and committed brothers and sisters in the Lord, God calls each one of you to be the salt and light of society. We encourage the faithful to be fully engaged and participate in public life including politics and business. We extend a special appeal to all Christians who are in public offices to lead by good examples and profess their faith by being visible witnesses of servant leadership marked with moral integrity.
We note with gratitude the media space that opened up in our country with the return of Zambia to plural politics. This has enabled the country to have an informed population and provided a platform for diverse discourse on various national issues. We thus plead for unfettered space for media operations in our country. On the other hand, we call upon media bodies, public or private, to espouse a sense of duty to ethics and professionalism.
The Lord has not abandoned us in the turbulence of our fifty years of independence. We have shared our joys and sorrows as a people. The word of God spoken through prophet Isaiah resounds in our minds as we celebrate our Golden Jubilee and as we look to the future with hope and gladness: ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you’ (Isaiah 43:5).
We therefore ask the Almighty in his mercy to stay with us. But we must all take responsibility for the future of our country.
May God bless our great nation and happy golden jubilee to every Zambian.
Issued on 24th October 2014
____________________ ____________________ ___________________
Rev. Dr. Alfred Kalembo Bishop Joseph Imakando Most Rev. T.G Mpundu
(President – CCZ) (Board Chairperson – EFZ) (President – ZEC)