In December 1991, President Chiluba declared Zambia a Christian Nation. The Declaration was subsequently accorded constitutional status after it was included in the Preamble in 1996.
The declaration also upheld the right of every person to enjoy his or her freedom of conscience or religion.
Whereas such a recommendation has drawn condemnation from some religious circles, it has drawn support from others.
One wonders how different is Zambia from other world nations dominated by Christianity but they have not gone public to declare and factor it in their constitutions.
” If you have never been to Zambia don’t imagine that the streets are full of preachers who are all over praying. No, this is not the case. Just like any other republic Zambia is sovereign and functions under the three arms of government; the executive, judiciary and the legislature. Our constitution is like any constitution in the world with the greater part of all constitutions based on the Bible, we uphold God as a supreme maker. Zambia begins by acknowledging God”. Said Zambian High Commissioner to Kenya Her Excellency Brenda Muntemba.
In an interview with AfricanQuarters in Nairobi, Muntemba reckons Christianity has yielded lots of fruits on Zambia’s economy.
“The Sunday after Independence Day is always held as a Sunday of prayer and thanking Almighty God. Zambia has many times gone away from God as a nation and when we go away we see things starting to tumble. We have seen drought, our economy tumble and we have seen suffering of our people but when we go back to God in prayer things change. The Kwacha has significantly appreciated and we attribute it to prayers.’’ Explains Her Excellency at her offices in Nairobi.
Zambian government declared days of prayer when the Kwacha plunged in 2015.
President Edgar Lungu asked for a day of forgiveness and reconciliation to be observed to help combat the economic problems facing the country on Sunday 18 October 2015.
Zambia’s domestic football fixtures were postponed, bar owners had been asked to close their businesses and thousands gathered in the capital, Lusaka, to pray – in part in an effort to help change the economic situation according to various sources.
Two weeks later reports indicated the central bank had pushed interest rates up to 15.5% to try and curb soaring inflation. The kwacha rose around 0.6% against the dollar following the announcement.
The Kwacha then continued to gain more than 11 percent to 12.38 per dollar in 2015. In the capital, Lusaka, the biggest advance among more than 150 currencies tracked by Bloomberg and most since November 2008.
Apart from witnessing the rise and fall of the Kwacha, as a result of the Christian faith Muntemba notes that the country continues to enjoy peace.
‘’ Zambia has never had a civil war. We are a beacon of hope.’’
Muntemba also mentions several acts of mercy her country has carried out including pardoning offenders.
‘’ Zambians are welcoming and they strive to do well and live peaceful anywhere in the world.’’ The High Commissioner explains as she welcomes me with a glass of juice.
Death and smooth presidential transition
Another test on Zambia’s stability was the demise of two sitting presidents and whose smooth transition is attributed to the powerful hand of God according to the High Commissioner.
On 28 October 2014, Zambia’s President Michael Sata passed away at London’s King Edward VII Hospital, where he was being treated for an undisclosed ailment. After a decade in opposition and three previous unsuccessful attempts, Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) party rose to power in September 2011, defeating incumbent Rupiah Banda of the then governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). He became the second Zambian leader to die in office within the past six years, following President Levy Mwanawasa’s death in August 2008. The incident created uncertainty but Zambia was able to overcome the problem widely viewed as a hard nut to crack.
Challenges facing Zambia
Despite being a Christian nation this country is not exempted from evils bedeviling most African nations including corruption
Increasing corruption is wreaking havoc on the Zambian economy, as the payment of bribes has reached the level of 78 percent in 2014, according to research by Transparency International.
The 2014 Bribery Payers Index, compiled by the Anti-Corruption Commission with research by Transparency International, showed that demands for bribes increased by 6.7 percent in 2014 compared with 4.7 percent in 2012. The index showed that the level of bribery payment increased to 78.3 percent last year compared with 48.3 percent in 2012. The index also showed that the prevalence of bribery worsened in 2014, with 57.1 percent of respondents surveyed paying bribes to public officials for a service compared with 44.6 percent in 2012.
Security of other minority faith
But how secure can religious minorities feel in a State that does not profess to be secular even if the constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and worship?
‘’ Zambia has space and freedom for other religions and all people have to uphold the values of the constitution. The constitutions of the world begin with acknowledging God ’’ She says
Like any other Zambian the high commissioner tries her best to do what God wants and explains how her day looks like.
‘’I try my best to start my day with devotion and to end my night in the same way with reflection. When I start my day in the morning and just pick the bible at random and read or read a good book may be a Christian book or books of morals. Why I do that is that how I start my day determines my attitude for that day. Then I go through life normally fighting the giants like King David killing a lion here and there.’’
Prayer day in Zambia
Zambia got independence on 24 October 1964 and the Sunday before Independence Day is always held as a Sunday of prayer and thanking Almighty God.
President Lungu declared, October 18, 2015 a day of repentance, fasting and prayer in response to the overwhelming requests that ordinary citizens and clergy from all denominations had made. Zambians all over the world meet in their respective areas to observe this prayer day.
On that day, the Zambian High Commission, led by High Commissioner Brenda Muntemba, hosted prayers at the Nairobi Chapel on Sunday afternoon.
It was a full house from the African Diplomatic Corps led by their dean Zimbabwean ambassador Kelebert Nkomani who was accompanied by his wife Lungile. Others included John Haule (Tanzania), Koleka Anita Mqulwana (South Africa), Perk Ligoya (Malawi) and Beyene Russom (Eritrea). Nigeria was represented by deputy high commissioner Friday Okai.
Christianity has been very much at the heart of Zambia since the European colonial explorations into the interior of Africa in the mid 19th century. The area features heavily in the accounts of David Livingstone’s journeys in Central Africa.
– Wamoyi. M. M., AfricanQuarters, Kenya