NEWLY installed Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ndola Reverend Dr Benjamin Phiri has urged politicians not to drag the church into politics.

And President Edgar Lungu says government and the church cannot afford to work in isolation.

Speaking during his installation, Saturday, Bishop Phiri said the job of the church was to unite and serve the people.

“A word to all of you politicians, don’t drag us the church into politics. Our job is to unite. I have gone beyond any political party but as long as we are able to operate in order to serve our people, well then, we are going to be partners in order to serve the people. So, for this, Your Excellency the Republican President, I thank you for projects that we did in Chipata, which I am sure will continue and I can assure you that we will start asking for help for projects which are running in Ndola and other projects to benefit the underprivileged. I will not succumb to any manipulation or any way of putting whatever politics might be obtaining, I would rather we work together as children of God,” Bishop Phiri said.

He said the church would work with the government of the day in serving the people.

“First of all, Your Excellency President Edgar Lungu, I would like to thank you for gracing this occasion. When I invited you and the diocese invited you, you did not hesitate to come. I am not inviting you because of your surname but because you are the Head of State. I will repeat what I have said many times, as Bishop of Ndola, I will always work with the government of the day regardless of who is there, that is why I am emphasizing that I did not invite His Excellency because he is Lungu but rather because he is the Head of State,” said Bishop Phiri.

“Government and the Catholic Church are partners in many sectors; education, health, in providing social services. Therefore, I have no hesitation to approach government to ask for help if it is for the benefit of the people that I serve. I think His Excellency is here, he will agree with me that I have hardly ever approached him for personal help, it is always for the underprivileged and for the community that I serve and I intend to continue doing that.”

And President Lungu said he government and the church cannot afford to work in isolation.

It is very humbling for me to be able to come and witness the installation of Reverend Dr Benjamin Phiri Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Ndola. It’s an honour and a privilege to be among you today at this momentous occasion. The church has historically played an instrumental role in advancing development in Zambia; reaching places that are challenging and playing a key role in service delivery, especially in very hard to reach areas. I must say, this gesture has not gone unnoticed. My government recognizes the role of the church in Zambia in shaping the society through various developmental programs,” President Lungu said.

“I wish to resonate the fact that the church and government cannot afford to work in isolation. The two institutions serve the same constituency hence there is need for closer collaboration for the benefit of the nation. In this regard, let me applaud the new Bishop of Ndola for being bold on this point [that] we have to work together. We have a task to uplift the social status of our people therefore we are bound to complement each other.”

President Lungu called on the church to ensure they continue with their mandate of promoting peace in the country.

“We look forward to the church to foster unity among the people of Zambia. The church should be in the forefront sowing the seed of love and not discord across political and ethnic divide. So, don’t look at politicians as politicians, look at them as Zambian people. Don’t look at citizens on the basis of ethnicity, tribe or religion, look at them as Zambian people. My government is determined to preserve our principle on national values and principles premised on patriotism including national unity, among others. My appeal to the church, therefore, is that the church should not abandon its God-given mandate of peace building in this nation and you may do this by preaching love. You church leaders should continue to safeguard peace in our nation by playing your role as shepherds of God’s flock,” said President Lungu.