It is apparent that the Catholic Church, just like many Zambian institutions, was under pressure from the PF government not to render any support to The Post newspaper staff that had sought refugee on its premises. The church is showing a serious lack of moral and spiritual courage in the face one of the most oppressive and corrupt regimes in Zambia’s post-independence history. The church therefore acted cowardly and shamefully.
As a Catholic, I feel that my own church, which I owe a lot to, has much ground to cover in Zambia for it to continue being relevant in our lives. The Second Vatican Council of 1962 to 1965 opened up the church in its relationship to the real world. Those in Latin America, Asia and North America have made tremendous progress since then. They have continued to transform the Catholic Church to become a significant pillar in the fight against poverty and injustice.
To the contrary, our performance on the African continent has been dismal. We remained aloof during the nationalist and liberation struggles – at times even hostile to those who took up arms to liberate our continent. We did not provide the spiritual leadership in fighting the numerous dictators that subjugated our people. Today, we are still nowhere near being the voice of authority against corruption and political oppression. We have taken a comfortable position that tries to please everyone: The dictators and their oppressed masses; the corrupt elite and the exploited masses of poor people. We have become contradictory, bureaucratic and increasingly irrelevant to the plight of wider society.
Strangely, this is all happening at a time that we have the most revolutionary Pope in our living memories. Pope Francis is daily reminding us of what we ought to do to restore what we have lost over the centuries. The Zambian church officials who chased The Post Newspaper staff from their premises are contradicting and moving in the opposite direction. Similarly, the catholic priests openly supporting the PF government and its parliamentary candidates stand on the opposite side of history, they cannot claim any moral and spiritual high ground. At this pace, we will soon not be different from a number of the other churches whose existence is tied to bootlicking of corrupt political leaders.
Well my views may be considered harsh; but being a Catholic and one who continues to study its history in relationship to the state, to the dark ages of inquisition in medieval Europe, its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the colonisation of the African continent, the independence struggles, and post-independence era; our ecclesial mission has to live up to the real world praxis. We have been very poor students of history. Admitting this weakness is the first step and the least we can do.