Vice-President Inonge Wina says government is ready to listen to the church in order to promote unity and peace in the country.

Speaking after a closed door meeting with some leaders of the church mother bodies among them, the president for the Zambia Conference for Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) Executive Director Reverend Pukuta Mwanza yesterday, Vice-President Wina said calling for the meeting was a step to demonstrate government’s resolve to listen to and work with the church.

“Let me assure you our leaders that government is ready to listen to the church so that we promote unity and peace in the country. Therefore my calling for this meeting is but a step to demonstrate government’s resolve to not only listen to the church but also work with the church to ensure national development,” Vice-President Wina said.

“For us a Christian nation to enjoy the blessings of God, we ought to ensure that there is unity among us. This unity should be irrespective of our differences in terms of politics, religion ethnicity or indeed social economic status in society. As government, we expect that church and religious leaders should take a leading role in the promotion of unity through among others, encouraging various stakeholders including politicians to learn how to co-exist, engage in open and positive dialogue that puts the interest of the country first. The peace that we have enjoyed since independence should not be sacrificed for personal interest.”

She reminded church leaders of their responsibility to guide the nation and to demonstrate the unity and love that is needed for the country to develop.

“As a church or indeed as religious leaders, you have a responsibility not only to guide the nation but also to demonstrate the unity and love that is needed for the country to develop. There are numerous examples in the country whenever sensed danger that threatened national unity and peace, it came together to champion unity and provided guidance to political leadership. At the time of fighting for independence, the differences between African national congress (ANC) and the United National Independence party (UNIP) leadership where often resolved by the church. This facilitated for independence from a united front,” said Vice-President Wina.

“The transition from one party state to the multi-party state in 1991 did not come without challenges. The impasse once again was resolved by the church. Further I am reminded of the role that the church played in fostering unity by bringing together our two late presidents Mr Michael Chilufya Sata and Dr Levy Patrick Mwanawasa SC when Mr Sata was in opposition and Dr Mwanawasa was head of state at the time. This was during the association of member episcopal conference East Central Africa (AMECEA) conference in June 2008 held in Lusaka under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops.”

And in a communique about the meeting today, Office of the Vice-President permanent secretary Stephen Mwansa revealed that the church leaders suggested a follow up meeting within a month to come up with a unified position on matters relating to governance.

“The religious leaders appreciated the meeting held and mutually agreed that: (a) dialogue should be encouraged as an on-going exercise and should always be open and inclusive; (b) specific issues of mutual concern should be dealt with in smaller groups in order to achieve quicker results; and (c) a follow up meeting of churches and religious leaders would be held within a month to come up with a common position, on matters related to the state of the nation regarding peace and unity, before meeting government,” stated Mwansa.

“Further, a smaller group has been constituted, composed of secretary generals/executive directors of church mother bodies and religious groups to meet and plan for the next meeting of church, religious leaders and government.”