The role of the churches in educating people for the development of democracy : the case of the United Church of Zambia.
The role of the Churches in politics has been a very controversial subject, which has often led to a clear division, with some churches supporting the involvement of churches in politics, and others advocating that churches should not be involved in politics. Those who advocate that the churches should not in any way be involved in politics believe that the churches should concentrate on its role of preaching the gospel and preparing souls for heaven. Others on the other hand advocate that such an assertion is a misunderstanding of the gospel which in its totality call for the church to be involved in the whole of life including what may be branded politics, as Kaunda1 observed: In spite of my early revolt against the missionaries, I knew that the Christian religion had something important to say to us in our political movement. We were always looking for Christians to support us in our struggle... In a young country like Northern Rhodesia, churches have a big part to play in its development. They cannot hope to succeed by confining their work to church buildings... It is my firm belief that we need an increasing number of Christian men and women in all political parties. It was our good Lord who said that his disciples should be the salt of the earth.2 This study focuses on arguing for the notion that the churches should by all means be involved in educating people to be involved in the development of democracy. We argue that God’s purpose is for the realization of “Shalom” as expounded by Perry Yoder who argues that Shalom is Peace which is not just the absence of war and conflict, but the realization of God’s purpose of having things the way they should be3. Shalom as the realization of peace and justice, and "life in its fullness" (John 10:10) for which Jesus came. Using the case of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) to develop this argument, we stress the importance of the education ministry of the Church. But we also note from our research that in the UCZ as in many Churches, the teaching ministry, commonly termed Christian Education (CE), is not developed to its full potential but often limited to doctrinal teaching and discipleship, focused especially on the children and youth. Supported by scholars like Bongani Mazibuko, R Simangaliso Kumalo, Samson Makhado, we argue for the transformation of CE, so that it addresses areas that are critical for the people, and one such area we propose is the development of democracy. In this regard we argue for the use of CE to enhance the development of democracy through “democracy education”. Democracy education as advocated in this study entails the inclusion of a course or module aimed at teaching democracy in the CE program, but it also means the provision of general education in various forms that would enhance the development of democracy. Having taken time to assess the CE program of the UCZ we end with some suggestions for a way forward among which is an example of elements which should be included in a module on democracy in a CE program.