The Catholic Church has been an integral part of the Zambian Society, walking and growing together with the Nation.
In the last fifty years, the clergy has increased in both numbers and quality. And most of the dioceses are becoming self-sufficient in clergy. In most of the Dioceses, the promotion of vocations is taken seriously, and the Small Christian Communities (SCC) and lay groups are encouraged to get involved and to be concerned with the priestly formation and with the maintenance of the priests.
In the last 50 years, the laity has embraced the Church as their own; and the same happens in the lay apostolic groups or movements, where the lay people make up those groups or movements. Being so, it is not surprising that, through the SCC and the lay groups, the laity take as their responsibility the administration of the Parish and expect to be involved in the pastoral decisions, planning and implementation of programs of formative and administrative nature.
Since the beginning of evangelization in Zambia, the Catholic Church has always paid great attention to education. After independence, most of the schools were taken over by the government. However, the few that remained under the care of the Church have been producing the best results at provincial and national level. She has also been very instrumental in the creation of a good number of community schools in order to meet the education needs of the communities in rural and urban areas, even with limited resources and facilities.
The establishment of the Zambia Catholic University, though a bit belated and still in its infancy has accorded the Catholic Church in Zambia to offer quality tertiary education in a truly Christian environment. It is beginning to give new opportunities for the formation of the young Zambians, providing skills, research, reflection and formation needed for the great demand of a growing nation.
Health and Home based care
The Catholic Church has been involved in health care delivery as soon as she embarked upon her mission in Zambia and has since independence, complemented the government’s efforts in health. The Catholic Church owns 17 Hospitals and 38 Rural Health Centres and several Community Based Programs, and accounts for 40% of health care delivery in the country. Over the years these institutions have developed from their modest rural beginnings to medium size and
major referral hospitals spread out all over the 11 Dioceses of the 10 provinces of the Republic of Zambia. In the response to the HIV / AIDS pandemic, the Catholic Church has been a major actor. It must be acknowledged that, Zambia has made significant gains in the fight against HIV and AIDS over the years. Part of this significant change, especially in the area of care and support, has been made by the Catholic Church. Inspired by her Social Teaching, the Church has deliberately targeted the poor and reached out to over 200,000 People Living with HIV / AIDS and supporting over 100,000 Orphan and Vulnerable Children.
The Catholic Church’s response to the socio-economic and political challenges that the people of Zambia have been facing, since independence, manifested itself beyond the preaching of the gospel to fulfill their spiritual needs. There are also the physiological and social needs that the people crave for and so the Catholic Church has, over the years built up institutional structures that have been effectively responding to these socioeconomic and political needs.
The major achievement therefore has been the establishment of the Development and Justice and Peace Commissions. The development Commission was created to serve the socio-economic needs of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable. In the case of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace ( CCJP), the Church established the commission because “action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching the gospel” So the CCJP in Zambia is a strategic response by the Bishops to social injustices and it is based on the teaching of Christ and the Social teaching of the Church. Justice and Peace is a way of radically putting into practice the gospel values and the meaning of Christianity. So the Commission through the establishment of Justice and Peace teams in about 85% of all the Parishes in Zambia has helped to transform people and so are able to participate in the art of building justice, peace and reconciliation in the Zambian communities.
Underdevelopment in rural areas – In the country as a whole, there is great diversity between developed urban and underdeveloped rural areas. Due to the mining industry, Zambia is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa. Most of the development has taken place in the urban areas, while most of the rural areas remain behind in terms of basic needs like roads, electricity, potable water, health and education facilities . Employment opportunities are very rare. This
sad situation has a lot of bearing on the life of the Catholic Church at both parish and diocesan levels, making pastoral and social programs highly costly. The very poor dioceses usually lose well-formed youths who move to urban areas with better opportunities in tertiary education and employment.
Over-dependence on foreign aid – With the reduction in donations coming from old Churches in Europe, which for many years have helped in the development and running of the Church in Zambia, today and in the years to come, the church will face the big challenge of building and maintaining infrastructures, run programs of pastoral and developmental nature. Therefore, all efforts of local initiatives aimed at increased local mobilization of resources should be tackled with a lot of aggressiveness.
The Catholic Church today
In promoting social Justice, the Catholic Church has continued to work with policy makers in order to influence policies that respond to the needs of the poor in Zambia. This is done at both National and diocesan level through Caritas Zambia. By increasingly demanding for accountability from the government, the church is hoping that service delivery will reach all, especially the poor. At the same time, the Church has continued to play her prophetic role by condemning evil and preaching the good news. The Bishops’ pastoral letters continue to attest to this.
The church realizes that a good legal framework is necessary for the promotion and defence of human rights and human dignity. That is why it has continued to work with the Oasis Forum and other CSOs to demand the enactment of a Constitution that would help to entrench democracy and democratic governance. In addition, the Church is still concerned with the promotion of sustainable livelihoods in the local communities in order to fight hunger and diseases. This, coupled with initiatives to reduce the effect of climate changes, the Church is promoting wood served stoves in communities as a way of reducing deforestation, in addition to tree planting.
The Catholic Church would want to see a Zambian society where every person attains integral human development and lives in harmony. To get to this change, the following preconditions must be available: in order to achieve this vision, the Church will continue responding to the social needs of the people by lobbying the state to be transparent, accountable, and responsive to people’s needs, build capacity of the community so that they uphold tenets of democracy. We wish Zambia a Happy and Prosperous Golden Jubilee. May the Church leaders fulfill the mission of Christ with charity and compassion. May God give success to all our labours and joy to all our work.
Bernard Makadani Zulu