THE incessant criticism targeted at the declaration of October 18, 2015 as a day of repentance, prayer and fasting for Zambia is indicative of the collective failure by some people to differentiate a messenger from a message.
Some political party leaders and others opposed to the declaration seem to be hung up on a cynical manipulation of public opinion.
They are concerned only with their own interests, typically disregarding the greater good of the country.
Their attitude shows how people on shaky grounds tend to be jaundiced, and distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.
They have been forceful, if not arrogant and condescending, in their personalised attacks on President Edgar Lungu for the step he has taken to surrender Zambia to God’s protection and guidance.
The disdainful critics are finding it hard to let the mask fall away, and admit that they are wrestling with vanity.
They have swarmed radio stations and the social media, which, sadly, is becoming an ever-present enabler of bad impulses and obsessive traits.
Essentially, they have been amateurish in their self-absorption and should perhaps learn a useful lesson from MMD president, Nevers Mumba, who finds little credence in the debate about who called for the national day of prayer and fasting.
From where Dr Mumba stands, “God is greater than President Edgar Lungu.”
The cleric-turned-politician holds that it does not matter who declared such a day, but that all Zambians should respect it if they truly believe in God because it has been done in good faith.
He has urged all Zambians, regardless of political affiliation, to participate in asking God for guidance, protection, and reconciliation.
Dr Mumba has counselled those opposed to Mr Lungu’s pronouncement that sovereign power belongs to God, and that the President has only been used as a ‘vessel’ for the hallowed statement he made on September 18, this year.
Council of Churches in Zambia general secretary Suzanne Matale similarly advised Zambians to face their challenges with civility and humility, and to act by praying as a nation.
Reverend Matale, during a Mind Transformation Conference at St Peter’s Anglican Church in Lusaka, appealed to the Church to take the lead in guiding Zambia on prayer and morality.
It should be appreciated that other leaders around the world have in past years sued for peace by dedicating their countries to God.
Such decisions were not anchored on self-serving interests, but to consecrate their countries through prayers, repentance, and forgiveness.
The idea was sound, which explains why it caught on and grew steadily across the years in a number of countries around the world.
There are enduring memories of James Buchanan, a President of the United States of America, who made a proclamation for a day of humility, fasting, and prayer on December 14, 1860.
Mr Buchanan said numerous appeals had been made to him “by pious and patriotic associations and citizens, in view of the present distracted and dangerous condition of our country, to recommend that a day be set apart for humility, fasting and prayer throughout the Union.”
He said in compliance with the requests and his own sense of duty, he had designated Friday, January 4, 1861, for that purpose.
He recommended that people assemble on that day, according to their several forms of worship, to keep it as a solemn fast.
“The Union of the States is at the present moment threatened with alarming and immediate danger; panic and distress of a fearful character prevails throughout the land; our labouring population is without employment, and consequently deprived of the means of earning their bread.
“Indeed, hope seems to have deserted the minds of men. All classes are in a state of confusion and dismay, and the wisest counsels of our best and purest men are wholly disregarded,” Mr Buchanan said.
He continued: “In this the hour of our calamity and peril, to whom shall we resort for relief but to the God of our fathers?
“His omnipotent arm only can save us from the awful effects of our own crimes and follies – our own ingratitude and guilt towards our Heavenly Father.”
He entreated the American people to unite in humbling themselves before ‘the Most High’ in confessing their individual and national sins, with deep contrition and penitent sorrow.
“Let us implore Him to remove from our hearts that false pride of opinion which would impel us to persevere in wrong for the sake of consistency, rather than yield a just submission to the unforeseen exigencies by which we are now surrounded.
“Let us with deep reverence beseech him to restore the friendship and good will which prevailed in former days among the people of the several States; and, above all, to save us from the horrors of civil war and ‘blood-guiltiness’,” Mr Buchanan said.
He reminded the people that an omnipotent providence may overrule existing evils for permanent good.
“He can make the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath he can restrain. Let me invoke every individual, in whatever sphere of like he may be placed, to feel a personal responsibility to God and this country for keeping this day holy, and for contributing all in His power to remove our actual and impending calamities,” he added.
Mr Buchanan also made a plea that the fervent prayers by all the American people should ascend “to His Throne that He would not desert us in this hour of extreme peril, but remember us as he did our fathers in the darkest days of the revolution; and preserve our Constitution and our Union, the work of their hands, for ages yet to come.”
One could, therefore, discern this inviolable proclamation that was not only beyond Mr Buchanan, but has transcended many generations.
There is a common thread running through President Lungu’s declaration of October 18 as the day of repentance, prayer and fasting because it followed overwhelming requests that ordinary citizens and clergy from all denominations had made.
The American people have for many years demonstrated their strong resolve in respecting national programmes such as the Thanksgiving Day.
Every November, the US celebrates Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday when families come together to share food, enjoy parades and watch American football.
According to The Mirror, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November, and most Government offices, businesses and schools are closed, with others closing on the Friday after.
The traditional Thanksgiving meal revolves around turkey, stuffing and vegetables. The meal is traditionally rounded off with a pumpkin pie.
Many big cities and towns hold a Thanksgiving Day parade, the most famous of which is the Macy’s parade in New York City.
The three-hour event features floats, costumes and huge helium balloons in the shape of cartoon characters including Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat.
Playing and watching American football is one of the longest held Thanksgiving traditions. NFL, college, high school and amateur teams have played over the Thanksgiving weekend practically since the game’s invention, and it is one of the biggest days in the football calendar.
The celebration of Thanksgiving is, in general, a feast to give thanks for the fruits of the previous harvest.
In America specifically, it dates back to the 1600s. There is some argument over when the first Thanksgiving was, but many think it dates back to 1621, when the harvest was celebrated by the Pilgrims – Dutch settlers of the Plymouth Colony in what is now called Massachusetts.
It spread through the new country and was celebrated on different days in different communities until George Washington declared the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789.
Zambians should cotton themselves on to the call for repentance, prayer and fasting, and treat it in a special way.
Mr Lungu agreed with the requests for prayers because the country’s founding fathers and mothers found it fit to commit the nation’s destiny to God’s providence as evidenced by their placing of the national flag at the high altar of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on October 25, 1964.
Political leaders and others who are scornful and have made their intentions to boycott the prayers known are betraying the foundation of Zambia, a country God has continued to bless in many ways, but chiefly the enjoyment of peace.
This is the reason why Zambia Centre for Inter-Party Dialogue executive director, Horace Chilando, is shocked by the dismissive conduct of some leaders.
Mr Chilando said in Lusaka recently that the national day for repentance, prayer and fasting is an important event that will help unite the country.
He said the day should not be politicised, and advised the political party leaders contemptuous of the invitation to the prayers to reconsider their positions.
They should not be enveloped in the vain attitude of the Sadducees who denied the resurrection of the dead, as well as the existence of spirit beings.
The Sadducees were a politically inclined religious group, and were generally wealthy members of the Jewish aristocracy who had embraced Hellenism.
They believed that the soul died with the body and, therefore, taught that there were no rewards or punishment after death.
The Sadducees saw God as uninterested in human affairs and unwilling to intervene.
Jesus Christ publicly denounced their beliefs, as it is stated in Matthew 22:23-29 in the Bible.
In addition, the average Jew rejected the teachings of the Sadducees, and they had little support among the common people.
Since the call for prayer and fasting is not in any way meant to be monopolised by the President, or his Government, those who are resentful need the humility to accept that their views are not tilted in favour of the Zambian people.
Instead of climbing roof tops from where they are shouting the loudest, the critics will do well to reflect deeply and realise that the declaration of October 18, 2015 as a day of repentance, prayer and fasting for Zambia is beyond Mr Lungu.
He is only God’s messenger.