A great piece from a partner in Zambia with Jubilee Center about justice and courage in Zambia...hoping to visit their ministry with student this May back in the mother land!
We argued last week that Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders are a major force on the Zambian political scene. Our leaders receive invitations to the State House; and public media outlets: the ZNBC, the Times of Zambia, and the Daily Mail quote Pentecostal and Evangelical leaders more than any other religious constituency. We also noted that during the election candidates will be appealing for our votes and the votes of those we lead. How much difference do we make in how our members vote? Leaders do influence their people, but in the absence of quantifiable data we are not sure how many Evangelical or Pentecostals vote or what other issues we care about apart from the “Christian Nation” clause.
Evangelicals are rightly known for efforts to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost. Pentecostals are known for proclaiming the message of generous giving as a way of coming out of poverty as well as for exploring new forms of worship and for building new church structures. Both groups however are still lacking when it comes to caring for the needy beyond their church community. As one who identifies with both groups I can say we also have a difficult time making disciples who practically understand what it means to be Christian citizens in Zambia and the world.
Consider the economy of England in the 18th century that was largely built on the abusing children from poor families who were made to work in coalmines and factories under terrible conditions, and on the slave trade that cruelly exploited Indians and Africans. A ruling class addicted to privilege, licentious living, and status dominated the English government. It was during this period that God raised up William Wilberforce out of a life of wealth and class, who in part was a disciple of John Newton a former slave trader turned pastor, to lead through his position as a Member of Parliament to influence his fellow lawmakers to abolish the slave trade in England.
Much of Zambia’s current leadership is no different than the 18th century ruling class that enslaved the poor and oppressed the weak for personal gain. Copper prices have soared to record highs and yet those living in poor communities are seeing little change. Our natural resources and economic future are being sold and yet the proceeds are benefitting only a small band of investors and the elite ruling class. The majority of the Zambians still lack access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. As a result, women and children spend a disproportionate amount of time collecting water and then caring for those who have contracted water-borne sicknesses from that water. Jeremiah lamented in the scriptures, “Remember O Lord what happened to us; look and see our disgrace. Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens our homes to foreigners” (Lam.5: 1-2) He cried, “Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?”(Jeremiah 8:20-22)
Zambia needs a John Newton who will tell our Wilberforce in Parliament that “God has raised you up for the good of the church and the good of the nation.” Do we have a Wilberforce in Parliament...someone who will forgo wealth and privilege for a higher cause? Do we have a John Newton in our pulpits...one who has the credibility and courage to speak boldly to the ruling class on behalf of the marginalized and disciple them to make a difference for good?