Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya has advised religious leaders to stop entertaining politicians who use the Church as a platform for campaigns and disparaging one another.

And Fr Chikoya has also asked the Church not to discriminate politicians seeking to worship with them based on political party affiliations.

In an interview, Fr Chikoya urged church leaders not to allow politics in places of worship, explaining that the Church needs to be a place of ‘good news’ where members are always encouraged and motivated.

“Before I even talk about politicians, I would rather address the Church themselves; any church leadership that allows a politician to campaign is off its mark! We must make sure if they are greeting, they greet and if it’s greeting, they should, of course, be allowed and say their names as well as where they are coming from. But I think we should get away from this culture where even at funerals they are guest of honours. Let’s respect the Church’s place and chip way from politics; the Church must be a place of good news, and we must always encourage and motivate our members without fear or favour. So, basically the buck again stops on those church leaders that would allow space for anybody to decampaign another person. But if a politician stands and quotes from the Bible and they encourage the members, I think we must also distinguish that that is not politicking. Politicians are also Christians, but [if] they begin to get into issues of de-campaigning, mudslinging each other or making points that are political, then that is off the mark and I think as church leaders, we must wisely guide our leaders. Before they speak, tell them; ‘please just greet us, we don’t want any campaign in our church’,” Fr Chikoya advised.

“I think the Church has got power to do that. But at times, we become too apologetic and scared at times. I think all the different churches, we have not done enough in that area in controlling who speaks and what they say. Because seated in church are different people from different political persuasions, and some don’t even want to hear politics. So, we need to be sensitive also as the Church. In as much as politicians can be condemned, the church leaders, who are shepherds, are also failing in their duties when they don’t control things of the political nature. Having said this, I know the Catholic Church is very respectable and they are able to ensure that whatever they do, they do it right. We work with them and we respect their sense of judgment and I don’t think they would allow any gathering of theirs to be used as a ‘cafe platform’.”

And Fr Chikoya said politicians must also be allowed to worship at any church regardless of their political affiliations.

“I think it’s high time we matured and grew up and understood that a church is just like a hospital and everybody can go there. Whether poor or rich or whatever position in terms of politics and the party they belong to, they are welcome to attend the church service. I think we must move away from that thinking that every church function should be graced or aligned to the politicians, particularly the ruling party, I think that is wrong! People must be free to attend the youth services, the conference and they must be free to attend the service, including those that are protesting; they are free to attend that service. I don’t think that service is restricted. Of course, every programme will say their focus and whatever, but I think people must be at liberty to attend any church service without being condemned. So, I think that kind of statement is unfortunate and one would love that top leaders try to verify some of these things before they make comments about the Church,” said Fr Chikoya.

“So, we call for soberness and maturity in the way certain matters are handled. No one should be restricted to go to any church and when they do, the Church should not be branded as being in support of such a person. There will be funerals, there will be weddings and depending on who is getting wedded, they will always be people belonging to whatever political party. The Church will remain a unifying factor, but will always be inclined towards peace, towards justice and integrity, these we will never compromise. The Church is meant to welcome everybody without being partisan.”