Zambia, The Catholic Church in
ZAMBIA, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
A landlocked country located in south central Africa, the Republic of Zambia is bordered on the north by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania, on the east by Malawi and Mozambique, on the south by Zimbabwe and Namibia, and on the west by Angola. Zambia is the most urbanized country in Africa; over half its population live in cities and towns along the railroad line that links the copper belt in the north to the Victoria Falls in the south. The Zambezi and Kafue rivers provide hydroelectric power and are potential sources for agricultural irrigation. Most agricultural production, which includes corn, rice, peanuts, tobacco and cotton, is rain-fed, and intermittent but severe and prolonged droughts caused the country to rely occasionally on food aid from outside. The region's abundant natural resources include copper, cobalt, zinc, lead, coal, emeralds, gold, silver and uranium.
Known as Northern Rhodesia until 1964, Zambia was administered by the British South Africa Company from 1889 until 1924. From then until 1964 it was a British protectorate and, as such, was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953–64). Independent since 1964, Zambia had one of the highest annual population growth rates in Africa, although its life expectancy was only 37 years in 2000. Over half the population was under the age of 15. The four largest linguistic groups were Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja and Tonga. Despite ethnic diversities, Zambia was notable for the climate of peace it maintained among all its population.
Early History. The region was originally the home of hunter-gatherer peoples, who were joined by more advanced migrating tribes c. 1000 bc. Bantu-speaking tribes entered the area from southern Zaire during the 15th century. Portuguese missionaries penetrated Zambia in the 16th and 17th centuries, but few traces of their work remained a century later. Europeans returned to the region in the mid-19th century, the most famous being British explorer David Livingstone who, in 1855, discovered the waterfalls of the Zambezi River. Livingstone named the falls after Queen Victoria; a town near the falls now bears his name.
Late in the 19th century Protestants, soon followed by Catholics, began organized mission activity. Jesuits came northward in the 1880s to southern Zambia, then part of the Zambezi mission established in 1879. In 1895 White Fathers under Joseph Dupont (1850–1930) established the first mission in the northern and eastern sections at Kayambi. The western region was first evangelized in 1931, when Italian Franciscans came to Ndola and Irish Capuchins opened missions at Livingstone and in the Barotseland protectorate. Growth was rapid, particularly in the two decades after World War II, when Catholic populations doubled. In 1959 the hierarchy was established, and Lusaka became an archdiocese and metropolitan see for the entire country.
In 1888 British entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes gained the right to mine in the region from local tribal leaders. Shortly thereafter Northern and Southern Rhodesia came into being under British governance. Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was annexed and gained autonomous status in 1923, while Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) became a protectorate a year later. In 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was formed by both regions and the area that is now Malawi. During the early 1960s demands for African nationalism conflicted with the British desire to retain power and preserve its economic interests in the area.
The Modern Era. In early 1963 Northern Rhodesia demanded complete autonomy and a new democratic constitution. On Dec. 31, 1963, the federation dissolved, and the Republic of Zambia came into being on Oct. 24, 1964. The nation's first president, Kenneth J. Kaunda, would govern for almost 30 years. A socialist, Kaunda established relationship with communist nations and developed a strong central government. Most of Zambia's industry, commerce and services were nationalized, and as the government became more authoritarian, the economy became more strained. Although the country possessed a wealth of natural resources, with the departure of the British, few Zambians were sufficiently trained or educated to run the country's industry or serve in its government.
Zambian support of independence movements in neighboring Southern Rhodesia, Angola and elsewhere led to economic problems by the 1980s. Under Kaunda's leadership, Zambia supported independence movements that led to the establishment of new governments in Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia), Mozambique, Angola and Namibia, and hosted the offices of South Africa's exiled African National Congress. In addition to
military attacks from Rhodesia and South Africa, Kaunda's policy of support created economic problems due to export and import losses. Despite the economic strain it caused, Zambia welcomed thousands of refugees from the conflict areas of its neighbors. A drop in copper prices during the 1970s further undercut Zambian efforts to stabilize its slumping economy. The nation's economic woes resulted in it amassing over seven billion US dollars in debt by 1993. At US $800 for every man, woman and child in Zambia, this was one of the highest per-capita debts in the world.
The Church after Vatican II. Both during the colonial era and in the early years following independence, the Church was actively engaged mainly in education, health and development efforts. Responding to the call of the Second Vatican Council, in the late 1960s Church leaders began to promote an inculturation or Africanization of the faith. Within the field of liturgy, the lectionary and prayer texts were translated into the main local languages. Liturgical music was composed using local melodies and traditional instruments such as drums, while traditional dances were incorporated into the liturgy, for example at the Gloria, the preparation of the gifts and the Eucharistic prayer. The Bible was translated into the local languages in a cooperative effort among the Catholic Church and several Protestant churches.
In the early 1970s Zambia's socialist government took over all mission schools and hospitals in the country, leaving only a few under Church management. This act expanded into a major conflict between the Church and the state by the late 1970s following a state effort to adopt "scientific socialism" as a governing ideology. School curricula were prepared with a strong Marxist interpretation of philosophy and history. Church leaders joined with Protestant and Evangelical leaders to protest against the imposition of this ideology in the form of joint pastoral letters, seminars and representations to the government. Their challenge was successful, as the curricula were never fully implemented.
The role of the Church within Zambia remained politicized in the wake of continued government efforts to restrict social freedoms and negatively impact the welfare of Zambians. When Pope John Paul II visited Zambia in 1989, he praised the government's support of religious liberty, but he challenged the Church and society to address the increasingly severe problems of poverty more effectively. Following serious riots and an attempted coup in June of 1990 the bishops wrote a pastoral letter calling for greater accountability by the government and ruling party. This letter, Economics, Politics, and Justice, was seen by many as a catalyst in the struggle to end one-party rule and establish a multiparty democracy. The 1993 pastoral letter Hear the Cry of the Poor criticized the policy of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and challenged the government to take stronger measures to protect Zambians who were experiencing economic hardships. Additional statements on economic justice were made by the bishops and by the National Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.
Into the 21st Century. In 1991 the country ended one-party rule, although subsequent elections were fraught with accusations of fraud and harassment of opposition candidates. Concurrent with national elections, in 1996 the Zambian constitution was modified to proclaim the country a "Christian" nation while preserving religious freedom. The privatization of Zambian copper mining operations helped to shore up the unemployment and inflation rates.
By 2000 Zambia had 238 parishes tended by 217 diocesan and 376 religious priests, with approximately 160 brothers and 1,322 sisters at work throughout the country, both as teachers in the country's 22 primary schools and 37 secondary schools and as caregivers to the many thousands stricken with HIV/AIDS. Because of the scarcity of ordained priests, the active participation of the laity was strongly encouraged by the Church, and catechists played essential parts in the building of rural Christian communities. As part of Jubilee 2000, Great Britain canceled a portion of the debt service owed it by Zambia, and the European Union remained willing to aid the country's efforts toward economic recovery.
Bibliography: g. d. kittler, The White Fathers (New York 1957). b. p. carmody, Conversion and Jesuit Schools in Zambia (Leiden 1992). Democracy in Zambia: Key Speeches of President Chiluba, 1991–92, ed. d. chanda, (Lusaka 1992). The Dynamics of the One-Party State in Zambia, ed. c. gertzel (Manchester 1984). k. hannecart, "Intrepid Sowers ": From Nyasa to Fort Jameson: 1889–1946: Some Historical Notes (Rome 1991). k. d. kaunda, Humanism in Zambia and a Guide to Its Implementation (Lusaka 1987). e. milingo, The World in Between: Christian Healing and the Struggle for Spiritual Survival (Maryknoll, NJ 1988). c. dillon-malone, Zambian Humanism, Religion and Social Morality (Ndola 1989); The October 1991 National Elections in Zambia (Washington, DC 1992).
[j. f. o'donohue/