PRESS STATEMENT BY FR FRANK BWALYA
SATURDAY 3RD APRIL 2010
President Rupiah Banda’s attendance of the Good Friday service at St Ignatius Catholic parish in Lusaka was an act of mockery and should be seen by all Catholics as another slap in the face. It is not different from the action of Dr Frederick Chiluba to receive Holy Communion at the same church knowing too well that it was not in order for him to do so. I make this statement against the background of the grossly unfair and evil things that Mr Banda’s government has consistently accused the Catholic Church of. He presides over a government whose members including the official spokesperson Rev. Ronnie Shikapwasha has accused the Catholic Church in Zambia of planning genocide. Rev Shikapwasha even stated that members of our church are more Catholic and Christian. We all know that the government of Mr Banda is behind the machinations of persons that have been using state controlled media to vilify and scandalise the local and universal Catholic Church. Even the salvo that these people have been unleashing on Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu is packaged and fully sponsored by Mr Banda’s government. This explains why such people have access to unlimited space and airtime in state controlled print and electronic media respectively. Moreover, some MMD officials have directly attacked Archbishop Mpundu.
I wish to remind my fellow Catholics that on Tuesday March 30, 2010 the state controlled Times of Zambia published a feature article under the title “The great shame of the Catholic Church” by one of Mr Banda’s proxies in his government’s smear campaign against us and specific members of the Catholic family in Zambia. It would be very naïve of anyone to believe that the said feature article which repeated the genocide allegation among other evil accusations was by an individual exercising his constitutional freedom of expression. It’s all propaganda and only children and naïve people would be fooled.
As a matter of fact many Zambians know that state media has been reduced to mouthpieces of the MMD government and is being used to splash cheap propaganda against those perceived to be threatening Mr Banda’s plan to win elections in 2011 so that he can continue to be president and finish visiting countries in the world.
The MMD is on recorded instructing some of its members to apologise to individuals or groups of people they offended. But this is the same party that has not apologized over malicious remarks made against Catholic Church. Up to now Mr Banda’s government has not apologised over the genocide accusations made by Rev. Shikapwasha let alone condemning them.
Against this background, I think that the only source of Mr Banda’s guts to go to St Ignatius parish on Good Friday was that he would not be snubbed or prevented from attending the service. But time has come for us to challenge Mr Banda’s government and demand that they explain why they keep slapping us in the face. I know that shortly after this statement comes out Mr Banda’s hired people will accuse me of not promoting reconciliation and that my statement does not represent the official position of the Catholic Church in Zambia. Let me address these two expected responses. I am ready to forgive Mr Banda’s government and I am sure that many other Catholics would like to do so. But these people want to treat us like fools and they expect us to forgive them regardless of the stubbornness and insolence with which they continue to injure us. They should be reminded that Jesus demanded to know why a guard slapped him for being forthright. This is recorded in the passion narrative by John in chapter 18 verses 19 to 23. Regarding the issue of an official position of the Catholic Church on these matters, I believe that there is no such a thing as an official position against evil. Evil is evil and no prophet or any sensible person needs permission to condemn it or wait for an official spokesperson to do so. Moreover, there is no such a thing as an official position on attacks directed at members of a united and loving family. For instance, how can the Catholic Church say to the MMD, “It is okay because you have just scandalised a few members of our family such as Bishop Duffy, Bishop Mpundu, Fr Miha, Fr Mwewa etc and not the entire family. So you can continue attacking them and they should defend themselves and our official position is that we enjoy a cordial relationship with your government.” This would only have been possible if the Catholic Church were not a united and loving family concerned about the welfare of its shepherds and members. As a matter of fact, the Church is the Body of Christ and all parts in this body love, support and feel for one another.
Finally, as a baptised Catholic who was confirmed and promised to defend my faith I give president Banda seven days to make a public apology over his government’s unwarranted attacks on the Catholic Church especially regarding accusations of genocide failure to which I will make sure that Mr Banda is made to feel unwelcome at Catholic functions including official ones to which he may be invited as republican president. We shall protest against the presence of president Banda and members of his government at our religious functions. I urge all confirmed Catholics to defend our faith against attacks by Mr Banda’s government. It is time for us to stand up and defend our faith before our children begin to believe the evil propaganda being spread about us. An effective and powerful way of expressing ourselves on this matter must be found.
Frank Bwalya (Fr)