God at the Centre of Zambia’s Independence Celebration

WRITTEN BY JO STEPHANIE, AAI NEWS TEAM

On 24th October Zambia will celebrate 50 years of independence from British colonial rule. Several events have already taken place to celebrate Zambia’s golden jubilee. The theme for this year’s independence celebrations is “Commemorating God’s favour of 50 years of independence, for continued peace, unity, democracy, patriotism and prosperity”. God can be found in so much of the independence rhetoric, not just in this official jubilee theme. Speakers on radio and television programmes tell us we must thank God for our freedom and that we need to continue to look to God to maintain the peace we have. So many Zambians are buying it.

Something about all this talk makes it sound as though freedom is not a right that we all deserve. Freedom is instead a favour given to us by God when he feels like it. People will praise God for our independence but never question why he allowed Zambians to be under colonial rule for over a hundred years. God allowed his people to be subjugated and humiliated for so long – but never mind; we must praise him for eventually giving us our freedom. But then again, he didn’t simply give it to us. Blood was shed, lives were lost and some people lived and died in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia’s colonial name) never knowing the ‘privilege’ of living in an independent country. And yet we never ask why a freedom-loving god would allow this.

Colonisation was a means through which Christianity was spread. As with so many other things, God couldn’t find an easier way to get a task done. Rather than bring his word to Africans through peaceful means, he did it through a group of people whose aim was to disenfranchise the African people. Africans across the continent, Zambians included, may have wholeheartedly embraced Christianity and have come to view it as a wonderful thing; but it was in fact one of the means our colonisers used to ‘pacify’ us. Missionaries were not much better and many of them did not see Africans as fully human. There’s a saying about how when missionaries came to Africa they would arrive with a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. The Zambian government wants us not to think of this but instead praise God for all the good he has done for us.

What so many won’t acknowledge is that God isn’t really a freedom lover. If he were, the Bible would contain verses condemning slavery; but in some cases it does the exact opposite (Leviticus 25:44-46 and Ephesians 6:5). Romans 13:1-2 states that all governing authority comes from God and anyone who rebels against their leaders is also rebelling against God. 1 Peter 2:13 tells us that we must submit to all human authority for God’s sake. From this perspective, God ordained even Zambia’s colonial rulers and rebelling against them was the same as rebelling against God. The God of the Bible would have preferred Zambians to submit to their colonial rulers rather than rebel and fight for their independence. Before Zambians were under British rule, the Jews were under Roman occupation but Jesus did not come to free them or encourage them to rise up against the Romans. The most he could promise was freedom in the afterlife; but here on earth, he wanted the Jews to accept foreign rule.

As to Zambia's jubilee, I seriously cannot see anything to thank God for. It is nearly 50 years since we gained our hard-earned independence but 27 of those were under the rule of one man who banned multi-party elections. So much for freedom. Our next president changed the constitution to officially declare Zambia a Christian nation, but he also stole public funds to stock his wardrobe with designer clothes. I believe now as I did back then that he used his faith as a front; he had secrets but few people would believe he was breaking the law if they believed he was a devout Christian.

Zambia is generally more peaceful and freer than many other countries but beneath the surface, things aren’t as they should be. Females still endure a harder life than males, gays and lesbians face arrest for simply being themselves and some have to flee the country for their own safety. Freedom of speech is limited. If the latter were not true I’d be able to have an article like this published in a local paper or magazine and without the need to hide my identity. But alas, that is not the case and for this reason I won’t be thanking God or any other made-up deities for my so-called freedom.