Christianity has been very much at the heart of religion in Zambia since the European colonial explorations into the interior of Africa in the mid 19th century. On December 30, 1991, Zambia’s newly installed president, Frederick Chiluba declared the small, southern African nation a Christian state, despite opposition from some Christian and Muslim leaders.
Of the vast majority of Zambians, 96% are Christians of various denominations. In 2010, according to World Christian Trends, 85.5% of the population identified as Christian, 11.2% identified with indigenous religions, 1.8% identified as Bahá’í, 1.1% identified as Muslim, 0.2% identified as agnostic, 0.1% identified as Hindu, and all other groups accounted for less than 0.1%. The 2010 Zambian census found that 75.3% of Zambians were Protestant, 20.2% were Catholic, 0.5% were Muslim, 2.0% followed other religions, and 1.8% had no religion.
Although the nation seems to thrive smoothly with Christianity as its dominant religion, the declaration of the 1996 constitution is largely meaningless, according to church leaders and other officials.
Prominent church officials interviewed by Ecumenical News International (ENI) in recent years said that the declaration had become increasingly “hollow,” as Zambia faces mounting social, political and economic problems, including widespread corruption.
Archbishop John Mambo, head of a 1.5 million-member Protestant denomination, the Church of God in Zambia, said there had been a rise in “immorality and corruption in our country which puts a question mark on our being called a Christian nation.”
He told ENI:
“There is very little to show that we are a Christian nation with so much wrong-doing, both in private and public life. There is nothing to distinguish us from secular nations. This is sad.”
Joe Komakoma, a priest and executive secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), agreed that immorality had increased, especially among government leaders. He said leaders were amassing wealth in dubious ways, leaving ordinary people uncared for.
“Lust for money, power and social privileges has been made to look like a virtue. This has resulted in the worsening of social indicators, high poverty levels, widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, endemic corruption and a sharp rise in crime.”
Hitherto, to cement the relationship between church and state, Zambia has even moved on to declare October 18 as a National Day of Prayer, Fasting, Repentance and Reconciliation, amid stern criticism from the public.
Civil society organisations have opposed the institution of this day citing the government’s failure to take practical steps to address the corruption scandals and looting of Zambia’s national treasury. Likewise, ordinary Zambians also seem to be losing trust and are questioning the motives behind the institution of this event.
Negative sentiments about the event are now rife on different social media platforms.
The scepticism that ordinary Zambians are showing towards the National Day of Prayer and Fasting is justified, critics have said. They say it is prudent that they remind Zambians that religion and politics have historically collaborated to suppress critical thought while promoting subservience to the ruling class.
“religion, particularly Christianity, was crucial to the enslavement of our forefathers and mothers in pre-colonial Africa. In this regard, the teaching of the Christian doctrine to our forefathers and mothers was meant to serve one selfish purpose – to make them obedient slaves. This practice was so entrenched that even slave manuals were written by colonial masters and enslavers detailing strategies on how to brainwash and make black people obedient slaves. Amongst the most important ingredients listed in such, slave manuals was the teaching of the Christian doctrine. In the name of Christianity and Jesus, our forebearers were beaten and murdered in slave ships and plantations with little or no resistance, thanks to the Christian doctrine they were exposed to which made them subservient even in the face of oppression. Generally, with such Christian indoctrination, colonizers and enslavers found Africans easy to conquer…
Judging from experience, which I hope we can learn from, there is only one objective the president hopes this religious gathering will achieve. This is to simply avoid taking responsibility for the dire state of our economy and placing the blame on some supernatural force. The source of Zambia’s problems is so clear that indeed even a blind man can see. Edgar (Lungu)’s government has shamelessly dismissed public outcry over the corruption scandals that have rocked his government. Highly questionable and overpriced contracts which have drained our treasury resulting in unsustainable borrowing is now the order of the day. We have seen his government prosecute citizens for simply asking questions on the smelly levels of corruption in government. Edgar’s government has chosen to ignore alarming levels of corruption including those involving the overpriced 42 fire trucks, ambulances and the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway among others. Edgar’s government has also refused to act on the looting of the Zambian treasury as revealed by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and the Auditor Generals Reports. In fact, it can be argued that the levels of corruption in Edgar’s government can closely rival those of Chiluba. This, dear Zambians, is the kind of government which is trying to rally you and me to pray for the appreciation of the kwacha and an economically prosperous Zambia.
The latest criticism of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting has come from a Zambian atheist Alinuwila, who said that combining Christianity with governance is killing Zambia and that there needs to be a separation between Church and State.
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