This is how the preamble of the Zambian constitution begins:

“We, the people of Zambia: acknowledge the supremacy of God Almighty; declare the Republic a Christian Nation while upholding a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion; … ”

This statement may seem harmless to some, but it does something dangerous. It has affirmed the existence of a god (specifically the Christian God) and gives no justification for doing so. Not only that, but it has assigned supremacy of the Christian God to the Zambian people. Not to those who are Christians only, but to every Zambian.

The constitution is the law of the land. Every word affects every Zambian, including those who are not Christians. This statement says the Christian God is supreme; not the Islamic God, not the Hindu God, not the Bahá’í God. This statement subtly discriminates against non-Christians and lessens the meritorious statements that follow:

“ … Uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person; commit ourselves to upholding the principles of democracy and good governance; resolve to ensure that our values relating to family, morality, patriotism and justice are maintained and all functions of the State are performed in our common interest; confirm the equal worth of women and men and their right to freely participate in, determine and build a sustainable political, legal, economic and social order; … ”

Now the constitution assuming the Christian God’s existence and asserting his supremacy may not seem like a problem for the average Zambian (after all, the average Zambian is a Christian), but it is a serious issue for a country that is home to people of many different faiths and those who do not have faith.

The preamble recognizes this:

“… Recognise and uphold the multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural character of our Nation …”

Apart from its troubling opening, the Preamble is very agreeable. It supports human rights, democracy and justice. For the most part, there’s nothing wrong with it. But as I said before, every word matters.

This was in no way meant to insult those involved in the making of the constitution. I’m sure they were well meaning. Much of the constitution is fine. But that does not mean there is no problem with aligning a country with a particular religion. I hope the Zambian people take notice and realize that it’s dangerous to live in a country that discriminates against others. Even if you believe something strongly, you should never impose it on other people.

I love my country and its people and I want to see it become better.

Advertisements