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“We do not support calculations to draw Church into partisan politics”: Bishops in Zambia

Politicians in Zambia have been cautioned against the offering of gifts to church members including the Clergy intending to lure them into partisan politics ahead the 2021 general elections. 

“We do not support any calculations to draw the Church into partisan politics, even by being offered gifts of one kind or another,” the Secretary General of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops’(ZCCB), Fr. Cleophas Lungu has said.

In an interview with Zambia’s Diggers News published Thursday, December 3, expresses his awareness of the tendency for politicians to bribe voters who are church goers.

“We are very much aware that as we draw near to the 2021 election, our churches are going to be frequented by a number politicians from the ruling party, but also even from the opposition,” Fr. Lungu says in the report and adds, “There will be offers of gifts in terms of money and in-kind.”

He said that “the Church is very committed to ensuring that our esteemed political leaders do not abuse the Church and draw it into partisan politics.”

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The Zambian Cleric insists that the Church remains “non-partisan when it comes to politics” and members of the Clergy in the Southern African nation “are not there to tell our members to belong to this political party.”

“We believe in the tenets of democracy that guarantees that individual members of churches are free to participate in the governance process of their country by supporting the candidate of their choice,” says the Lusaka-based ZCCB Secretary General.

He clarifies, “Donations are always welcome. For example, the Catholic Church runs a lot of hospitals, orphanages as well as social service. We would rather that the politicians give and donate directly to those charitable causes rather than giving the Church leadership.”

“They are welcome in terms of responding to very visible and relevant needs like the orphans and vulnerable. If someone donates in order to look after the sick, morally speaking, there is nothing wrong; but not to give to a church so that members vote for a person, that is immoral,” Fr. Lungu clarifies.

In the December 3 report, Fr. Lungu also urges members of the Clergy in the country to “remember that our principal training obliges us not to declare our personal inclinations in public in any way at all.”

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“We leaders in the church must be non-partisan, must be embracing because in the same community, the Catholic Church, you will find members from all the political parties and we should be there to provide pastoral guidance,” he says.

He continues, “We should be there to provide ethical guidance and we should all be there to provide guidance for them to do the right thing. That is to engage in politics of development, politics that are democratic and politics that enhance the national cause of transformation.”

The ZCCB official further says that in case a Priest endorses a political leader, that should be taken as his “own opinion and not the position of the Church.”

A Priest endorsing a political leader “is un-Catholic; that is uncalled for and should be taken as personal not as the official position of the church,” Fr. Lungu emphasizes in the December 3 report.