Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Rev Godfridah Sumaili says government’s attempt to enshrine the “Christian nation” doctrine in the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10 of 2018 is designed to enhance what has already been pronounced.
A fortnight ago, John Sangwa SC questioned, during a News Diggers and OSISA-hosted public discussion forum, why the country should be called a Christian nation when it was in essence a secular state.
He said it was wrong to pronounce that Zambia is a Christian nation in the constitution.
“One of the changes we are talking about, look, I am a Christian, but I don’t believe that we shall provide in the Constitution that Zambia is a Christian nation. I don’t believe in that, it is wrong. You don’t need a secular document in order to propagate your religion. I have always believed that matters of religion are private, they should never be public. So, you have an attempt not only that, they have gone further now, they want to amend articles four and eight for it to provide that this is a Christian nation. There will be problems! In any case, have we had any religious problems in this country? So, why make it an issue, why is it an issue? Look at the proposed amendment of article four and article eight (of the Constitution Amendment Bill); this country has always been a secular country, it has never been a Christian nation. It has always been a secular country recognizing the rights of every person to practice his or her own religion or faith,” said Sangwa.
But in an interview in Lusaka, Rev Sumaili argued that the country was and would continue to be a Christian nation, and that the move to have the declaration enshrined in the Constitution was just an enhancement of what had already been declared.
She explained that the move would not affect non-practicing Christians in the country as their rights would be respected.
“We are of the view is that this is a Christian nation, it’s not a joke, we are a Christian nation. We are a sovereign nation; this is who we are as Zambia that is our identity; why should we even shun away from expressing who we are? We have made it very clear that, however, we shall uphold the beliefs of others who may not be Christians, the spiritual consciousness of others shall be respected. And, of course, when we look at part three, which still has to come back into the Constitution, it talks about freedom of worship, freedom of expression; these freedoms should be able to protect every Zambian. What we are doing is just enhancing that which we have already declared,” Rev Sumaili said.
She stressed that her Ministry was working, and the fact that people could see the wrongs happening in society was a sign that the citizenry had awoken to these values.
“There is more weight on promoting and amalgamating national values and principles. And you know, because of this awareness, now people can see the wrongs; they can see things that are negative in as far as morality is concerned; as far as good governance, integrity, because we have now awakened to these values. These values are so critical, and in fact, this is our mandate as a Ministry working with various stakeholders to ensure that these values become a way of life. It cannot just happen overnight. It is progressive and we have to ensure that we permeate every area of life. As I am speaking right now, all government ministries have to ensure that they are implementing these values even in the way the Constitution is couched; interpretation of the Constitution has to make reference to the values,” said Rev Sumaili.