THE Catholic Bishops have wondered whether the ‘NDF wave’ will bring about renewed hope or result in dispirited and dejected human beings whose dreams and aspirations have been shattered by people who do not care to listen to their cries.
During the launch of the extraordinary month and reception for Gianfranco Gallone, the new Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi, Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops president Bishop George Lungu noted that from February to May this year, the sense of hope and optimism that characterised the period after the launch of the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on January 18 soon turned into frustration, divisions and a growing sense of despair.
He said key stakeholders who had hoped for a Church led dialogue were disappointed to see that the PF government took over and created a parallel process by enacting a law to implement what they called the National Dialogue Forum (NDF).
“Others, especially those sympathetic to the government of the day, perceived this as an opportunity to show solidarity with one another and the government’s approach to Dialogue. The National Dialogue Forum is over and its results are there for everyone to see. We wish to allow this ‘wave of NDF’ run its course and finally break on the shores of our mother Zambia,” he said. “The question which we are asking is whether this ‘NDF wave’ will bring on the shore people filled with renewed hope in the fulfillment of their dreams and aspirations of a land of work and joy, or it will just bring dispirited and dejected human beings whose dreams and aspirations have been shattered by people who do not care to listen to their cries.”
Bishop Lungu said Pope Francis, in his message of Peace on January 1 said: “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalisation and even destruction.”
He hoped that as ZCCB meets in the coming days for her Second Plenary of the Year, they shall exercise their prophetic ministry by reading the signs of time and seriously reflect on the challenges Zambia was facing.
“Not only that, I hope and pray that as shepherds of God’s flock, we shall endeavour to propose the way forward by providing an alternative route to authentic peace-building and genuine reconciliation. Indeed, from the very beginning of the Church led National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process, Your Excellency (the Nuncio), the vision of the Church has always been ‘a conversion of hearts and minds of the Zambian people, leading to a unified, reconciled and peaceful Zambia where all citizens freely participate in governance within a thriving social and economic environment’,” he said.
He said the Church remained committed to the vision and has since resolved to remain truly non-partisan so as to be inclusive and bring people from all walks of life and political persuasions together in the spirit of ‘One Zambia, One Nation.’
On the Nuncio, Bishop Lungu assured him of their prayers for the success of his mission, especially that of promoting unity and reconciliation within and outside the Church.
“As the holy father rightly pointed out in his address to the Papal Representatives, who were meeting in the Vatican on 13th June 2019, ‘An important part of the work of every Nuncio is to be a man of mediation, of communion, of dialogue and of reconciliation. The Nuncio must seek to be always impartial and objective, so that all parties find in him a just arbiter who seeks sincerely to defend and protect only justice and peace, without ever letting himself be involved negatively. Being a man of communication, the activity of the pontifical representative brings first of all a precious service to the bishops, to the priests, to the religious and to all Catholics of the place, who find in him support and protection, inasmuch as he represents a Superior Authority, which is to the advantage of all. His mission does not superimpose itself on the exercise of the bishops’ powers, nor does he substitute or hinder him, but respects him and, rather, favours and sustains him with fraternal and discreet advice.’ Based on our initial interactions with you, we have no doubt that you will fulfill this noble mission in Zambia,” he said.
He suggested that one of the Nuncio’s first assignments should be to initiate dialogue among ZCCB members aimed at peace-building and reconciliation. On the launch of the missionary month of October 2019, Bishop Lungu said in this Passion for Mission, Pope Francis leads by example.
“It was unthinkable that the holy father could make a pastoral visit to the United Arab Emirates, have an open-air Mass attended by thousands of people and sign a peace accord with the Emir of that country. We also remember his leaving the comfort zones of the Vatican City and the Apostolic Palace and reach out to the marginalised communities of immigrants and celebrating Mass with them; entering the prison walls to celebrate Mass with the inmates, washing and kissing their feet. In all these acts, the holy father thereby denounces complacency and self-centeredness in the Church today and challenges us to go out and be ‘bruised and soiled’ in the streets of society; it is a call to abandon our comfort zones, ‘leave home, family, country, language and local church and to be sent forth to the nations’,” he said.
“Indeed, we must also recall the challenging words of Saint Paul: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16). ”Therefore, if this launch has to be a meaningful exercise, activities have to be carried out in such a way that there is indeed a renewed missionary awareness and commitment, with fresh evangelical impulse to our way of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.”
Bishop Lungu said with the spirit of courage and fearlessness of early missionaries and the ingenuity of the present world, people were invited to die to a spirit of self-preservation and be daring enough to venture into the unknown prompted by the Holy Spirit and relying on God’s providence.
“In doing so, let us always remember the pastoral principle, ‘Salus animarum suprema lex’, that is, ‘the salvation of souls is the supreme law’ of the Church and is the basis of all ecclesial action. Interestingly, this launch coincides with our Golden Jubilee celebrations of SECAM in Kampala in the coming days. This is the town where St Paul VI, visiting Africa for the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs, challenged the Church in Africa to be ‘missionaries to ourselves.’ That challenge is still valid today. There are so many worrying situations which need to be addressed by our local churches,” he said.
He said while some enjoy abundance of material and human resources, other ecclesiastical provinces were in great need of resources for mission.
Bishop Lungu said he dreams of a time when the Zambia Association of Sisterhoods would be making available religious sisters to the Conference of Major Superiors for mission in and outside Zambia, creating mixed communities for mission.
“The community of the religious at Kalundu Study Centre is perhaps a testimony to the workability of this kind of arrangement. I dream of a time when a team of Zambian lay volunteers will take leave for places like Shang’ombo and using their own resources and skills apply themselves for mission in issues of health, education and other social services. With such initiatives, this launch will have made a very significant milestone in the life and mission of the local Church in Zambia,” he said.
“Permit me to draw your attention to the precious gift of peace badly needed in this country today. ‘Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples.’ Our people in Zambia desire peace, they long for lasting peace and are in dire need of integral development, peace, justice and reconciliation.”
Bishop Lungu said Ambassador Alessandro Mariani, in his speech on the Europa Day on May 9, 2019, said: “The Zambian society is divided. This is the opinion of the vast majority of Zambian interlocutors with whom I have built close relations regardless of their political affiliations…. There is a tendency to focus on what divides rather than what unites; to make debates personal rather than issue based; and to look at the interests of some rather than the public interest.”
And Bishop Lungu said it was no longer a secret that Southern, Western and some parts of Eastern, Central and Lusaka provinces had experienced crop failure during the 2018/2019 farming season.
He said it was estimated that 900,000 households were affected.
“Finding food for about 1.5 million people as well as animals is a serious matter. In the spirit of missionary impetus, may I repeat the appeal that was made by my brother Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, OMI, on the 24th June this year for government to declare the affected areas as a disaster. This will help to mobilise the much-needed resources to move the necessary food items in areas where there is literally nothing to eat,” he said. “It is a situation of choice between life and death. However, this declaration does not mean that we as Zambians cannot manage our situation. I strongly believe that we can and should. That is why, the Church will continue to call upon its members and all people of good will to share the little food, clothes and money we have with those that are hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked and poor. In so doing, we shall put into practice the Gospel message that challenges us to do the corporal works of mercy (Mt 25:31-46). But where there is a possibility for help to come from outside, why not receive with grateful hearts? After all, Zambia is not an island.”