Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Rev Pukuta Mwanza has asked members of the clergy to accept President Edgar Lungu’s apology, and to forgive the Head of State for accusing the church of being political.

Reverend Mwanza has however asked President Lungu to meet the church leaders whom he offended by challenging them to join politics, so that he could render his apology and receive forgiveness.

Earlier this year when the State incarcerated opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, church leaders, especially from the Catholic diocese described President Lungu as a dictator whose unwillingness to dialogue with his political competitors had caused a national crisis.

But the Head of State reacted angrily and challenged the bishops to join politics. He said the church leaders had become political in order to justify their pay masters expenditure.

“What crisis are they talking about? This crisis exists in their heads because they want to justify what they are getting from their pay masters. If they want issues to be discussed between me and whosoever, let them table the issues by way of explaining the issues to be discussed,” President Lungu demanded.

“I have got too many things to do, I am a busy person. I cannot waste time because some civil societies want to justify their pay masters expenditure, I am too busy. So if you have nothing to do, let them find something better to do… Let them join politics, I am ready to face them”

But when he met the clergy in Lundazi this week, President Lungu said he was wrong to accuse the church of being political.

“When you tell us this is wrong, we shouldn’t say ‘the church has become political’. Obviously, I was one of those, in those days, who used to believe that the church was political when they correct me. I remember responding to one colleague who was talking to us to say ‘join politics’, but I think that was wrong. Politics and religion are the same,” said President Lungu.

Reacting to President Lungu’s apology, Rev Mwanza who has a soft spot for the Head of State said forgiving was the natural thing to do.

“Somebody has apologised, if this was not solicited and he has realised on his own that those remarks could have hurt other people and he has offered an apology, the natural thing is to accept the apology and to forgive him,” Rev Mwanza said.

“But the President can also go further and meet the people he offended by those remarks or actions, to say ‘I am sorry’ and in that case then we can realise the intention of this season of prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

He said President Lungu had taken lead in asking for forgiveness ahead of the National Day of Prayer and Reconciliation, adding that other people should take a leaf.

“What I am saying is that everyone else should take a leaf from this and emulate what the President has done by also looking at their own personalities and looking at the people they have hurt and be able to apologise.

Meanwhile, Rev Mwanza invited the UPND leadership to take part in this year’s National Day of Prayer.

“I think that there are a number of praying people in the UPND, there are Christians there and I know that they value prayers. That’s why at one time prayers were made in support of the release of the UPND leader (Hakainde Hichilema). So I think that since they value prayer, they can take advantage of this time just to contribute to bringing healing to the nation,” said Mwanza.

“Moreover, we are not praying to an individual, we are praying to God. Prayer also heals those who are grieving, if you are hurting, once they forgive and seek the forgiveness of God, they will enjoy the peace of God as well, instead of continuing to have hurt feelings.”