PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has expressed concern that despite the government’s effort to help cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the church, the initiative has instead received a backlash.

According to a statement issued by Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Isaac Chipampe, Thursday, the Head of State however said he would not be discouraged because the COVID-19 fund was intended to support vulnerable people.

President Lungu said this when a delegation from the Christian Coalition paid a courtesy call on him at State House.

Chipampe said when the country was first confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, President Lungu saw the need to devise strategies on how to address the suffering of the people and the Church.

“We said let’s sit together and formulate a way of helping the Church, and after consultations, we came up with the Covid-19 Fund for the Church and religious based organisations,” Chipampe quoted President Lungu as saying.

He said the President expressed concern that despite government’s effort to help cushion the impact of the pandemic on the Church the initiative was instead receiving a backlash.

“But we will not be discouraged by that because the introduction of the Covid-19 Funds is intended to support the Church through the people; that is youths, women and vulnerable people,” President Lungu said.

The President said it was not his desire that the Covid-19 Fund be the source of conflict between the Church and the State.

The President urged the Church to resolve the matter themselves and noted that the PF, since coming into government, had been helping the Church.

President Lungu said, as Head of State he had continued to work with the Church and wondered why he was now being accused of thriving on the popularity of the Church to get back into power in 2021.

“I find it very difficult to take,” the President said.

He wondered why the church would decline a government that was collaborating to help its people. The President also called on Church leaders who were aggrieved with the COVID-19 Fund to go back to the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Affairs to discuss their areas of concern such as mechanism of distribution.

“Otherwise to say that we don’t want it, it’s like the same Bill 10, people said they didn’t want Bill 10 but a week down the line they said where is Bill 10. Why should the Church decline the Government which is collaborating to help its people?” he wondered.

And President Lungu said Christians should be encouraged to come into politics. He called on the Church to “saturate” the country’s political landscape because, in doing so, they would be serving with the knowledge that they are serving God through mankind.

The President said there was a need for people who were true to the calling of politics to come on board and serve the citizens, regardless of their ethnic grouping or region they hailed from.

“My cry has been that you bring forth sons and daughters of the Church to saturate the political landscape so that we get the best. I think that Christians should be encouraged to come to politics. I don’t see why politics should divide us but when we have Christians in the political landscape and playing politics, they will remember that ultimately, it is God Almighty they are serving through mankind,” President Lungu said.

“It doesn’t matter whether you belong to this tribe or that tribe, this Church or that Church. We are One Zambia One Nation with a common destiny.”

President Lungu dismissed assertions that the Church needed to be isolated from politics.

“This is not right because the suffering of the people is felt by the church hence the church is not only there to evangelise, bring salvation and righteousness to the people, but to also make sure that the lives and welfare of people are improved,” President Lungu said.

He said in the past he had been accused of trying to interfere in the Church and after he kept away, the Church invariably approached him.

“I find the Church coming because the Church is always crying when the people are oppressed, that’s the nature of the Church, so I cannot run away from responding to that cry.”

And Christian Coalition President and National Presiding Bishop Professor Charles Mwape expressed shock that the noble cause of the Covid-19 Fund had been politicised.

Bishop Mwape explained that the decision to have the Covid Fund in place arose from the Church’s request to the Government on how best the Church could be helped in the midst of the pandemic.

“It was not government’s initiative but the stakeholders’ initiative and government only responded,” said Bishop Mwape.

Other Bishops in the delegation included Dr Alick Mbewe, Coalition Vice President Ana Coordinator for Eastern Province and Dr. Lackson Banda, President for Politics and Elections.

Others are Dr Godwin Musonda, Dr John Mumba, Bishops Jonas Mupeta and P. Chombela.