Zambia's Catholic bishops and the country's main umbrella for Protestant churches have joined forces to vehemently oppose the establishment of a government ministry of religious affairs.
President Edgar Lungu speaking at St. Andrew's United Church of Zambia announced Sept. 28 that he was to re-introduce a Ministry of Religious Affairs.
On Sept. 4, while visiting State Lodge's Divine Mercy Catholic Parish, in Lusaka, Lungu told parishioners that the Church in Zambia should not be threatened by the creation of the ministry of religious affairs as he said the ministry will harmonise State-Church relations.
Under the late President Frederick Chiluba Zambia in 1997 instituted a Religious Affairs Ministry, something that never conclusively got approved by the entire population, Zambia Reports stated.
The religious ministry suffered due to unclear terms of reference and its inability to garner support and consensus from churches and eventually, it was quietly phased out, Vatican Radio said.
The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops together with leaders of the umbrella body of established Protestant Churches, the Council of Churches in Zambia said they strongly opposed the establishment of the new government ministry to be known as the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs.
Opposing the government's move, the two church bodies said they found the creation of a new ministry of religious affairs unnecessary and imprudent, Vatican Radio reports.
"In view of the various financial and economic challenges our country is currently facing, we neither see the creation of the said ministry as a top priority nor a prudent decision," said the two church bodies.
"After all, we believe that Zambians want their country to be a democracy rather than a theocracy," the statement notes.
PENTECOSTAL PASTOR NAMED
President Lungu, last week appointed Rev. Godfridah Sumaili, a Pentecostal pastor of Lusaka's Bread of Life Church as the new head of the ministry of religious affairs.
Sumaili was subsequently nominated as a Member of Parliament, by Lungu.
The Zambian parliament still has to ratify the appointment and the creation of the new ministry.
Although Zambia was declared a Christian nation in 1996, the constitution still retains a clause which recognizes the presence of other religions.
According to the current constitution, Zambia is a multi-faith country. However, this has divided Christians and a a third church body, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, supports the idea of a new religious ministry, according to Anadolu Agency.
Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia executive director, Rev. Pukuta Mwanza, on behalf of Pentecostal churches, last month, praised Lungu's initiative saying it would "promote Christian values and give more meaning to the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation."
Zambia is a landlocked Southern African country and its neighbors include Zimbabwe in the south, Malawi in the east, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania in the north and Angola in the west.
Of Zambia's 16 million people around 75 percent are Protestants and 20 percent are Roman Catholic.