December 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of Zambia a Christian nation. The leader of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) party who came to power in 1991, a convinced Christian F. Chiluba, declared Zambia a Christian nation, arguing that Christianity was then professed by more than 70% of the population and that this was supposed to help the country to get rid of corruption and contribute to its prosperity.
The article analyzes the reasons of decision to declare Zambia a Christian nation. It is emphasized that political goals prevailed then over religious ones, since the issue of preserving and strengthening power was high on the political agenda of the ruling MMD party. The economic background is also touched upon: as a pragmatic president Chiluba pursued a policy of economic liberalization and counted on financial assistance from Western countries and international donors.
The following Christian presidents L. Mwanawasa, R. Banda and M. Sata used limited Christian rhetoric, but they collaborated with the Church with varying degrees of intensity. At the same time, the provision on the Christian nation in the Constitution was preserved.
It is noted that the role of the religious factor in politics increased in the early 2010s. The politicization of religion, primarily Christianity, became apparent during the struggle for power led by the leader of the opposition Patriotic Front party Michael Sata, who was supported by some religious leaders.
After Edgar Lungu (party Patriotic Front) came to power in 2015, Zambia was re-proclaimed a Christian nation, which was enshrined in the new edition of the 2016 constitution. At the same time, the country began the political rehabilitation of F. Chiluba, who, after leaving the presidency in 2001, was persecuted for corruption. The campaigns for the 2015 presidential elections and for the 2016 general elections have shown the relevance of the discourse on religion and politics in the political process, primarily in its aspect of the multiple relationships between religion, ethnicity and politics.
The article shows that the issue of the proclamation of Zambia a Christian nation remains relevant in Zambian society and among African and Western theologians and researchers whose judgments and conclusions are often polar opposite.
The author notes that the realities of the socio-political, socio-economic and cultural life in Zambia do not yet indicate the existence of the declared Christian nation. The high level of corruption, poverty, limited rights of some groups of the population do not correspond to Christian ideals and values and have become serious challenges for the modern Zambian society.
The article emphasizes that, unlike a number of other countries south of the Sahara, where competition between Christianity and Islam has intensified in recent years, leading, among other things, to bloody conflicts, Zambia survives this conflict along the axis of competition between different directions of Christianity.
The ruling PF’s manifesto for the August 2021 general election contains Christian rhetoric. The document states the PF’s commitment to partnership with the Church, which it recognizes as a key partner in the conversion of Zambians into a Christian nation. Further peaceful development of Zambia depends on a balanced internal policy of the authorities aimed at solving complex socio-economic problems in cooperation with representatives of all religions and their confessions.
Zambia, Christianity, F. Chiluba, Christian nation, declaration, denominations, politicization of religion, E. Lungu, elections
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