Sunday, June 14, 2020

Prayers for Zambia

The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle this week (June 14-20) includes Zambia, where there is a DIAKONIA member association - Deaconesses of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ).

The UCZ is the largest Protestant church in Zambia with coverage of all the ten provinces of the country The church formed in 1965 as a result of the union of 5 churches including the Church of Central Africa, Rhodesia (a mission work of the Church of Scotland). The Deaconesses of the UCZ are a vibrant group of women serving their communities through community development and practical support. In April 2018, 3 more Diaconal workers were Commissioned at the Diakonia Centre in Kabwe. In total there are about 50 UCZ Deaconesses.

The context for ministry is challenging. General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia, Rev Dr Peggy Kabonde, said in a statement in 2019 that she observed with serious concern the levels of animosity and violence in the country. The Church urged all Zambians to embrace unity, tolerance and patriotism as critical values and virtues for co-existence. She emphasised that violence and attitudes that promotes tension and divisions should not be condoned at any cost. The church urged the general public to unity and to grab every opportunity that promotes peace and unity for the well-being of Zambia. Nevertheless, this year 2020 has seen fresh violence, with ritual killings, gassing and mob violence resulting in the loss of innocent lives. The UCZ has condemned this in the strongest terms.

Human trafficking and modern day slavery is an issue in Zambia that is dehumanizing, commodifying and stripping of a person’s God-given human dignity. The UCZ has called on religious and political leaders to take appropriate measures to protect vulnerable groups in Zambia whether they were a source, in transit or have reached their destination.
Deaconess Mable Sichali

Deaconess Mable Kifwabantu Sichali is the Secretary for the Community Development Social and Justice program (formed in 2006) in the United Church of Zambia (UCZ), the first Deaconess to hold such a leadership position. Some of the crucial work the church is doing to increase life opportunites in Zambia using grassroots community engagement include support for some of the 1.2 million HIV sufferers in the country, sexual health education for young people, and promoting self-reliant groups to support growth in small businesses in Zambia. Future plans include a mother and child clinic which will provide vital assistance for young or vulnerable mothers.

“So much of my job is about empowerment and raising awareness – among men as well as women, and working with some of the poorest and most marginalised people in Zambian society. I deal with the issues that affect people on a fundamental level. I tackle social justice, gender based violence, child abuse, and our response on climate change!”

Mable and her team of 41 deacons and other workers are working with the hardest subjects and the least inaccessible people by using every method they can think of. “We use self-help groups to try to empower everyone, but especially women, to become economically, socially and politically independent. When they are not relying on a man for their income, they can begin to tackle the wrongs in society themselves. In Zambia we have to face things like child and forced marriages, and trying to overcome the so-called traditions that have led to them".

Mable and her team work with young mothers, teaching child and self care, nutrition, sexual reproductive health, self help concept skills training, awareness about gender based violence, family planning and village banking. Each mother has a small business that generates income for daily needs and many wish to pay for their kids to attend school. Even though it is said to be free, there are expenses involved. Many of the girls wish to return to school to break the cycle, however there is need to mobilise resources for Vocational Training and educational support suitable for them especially with the youngest being 15 years of age. There is also need to work with parents and other stakeholders but resources for these are limited.

Mable says, "Zambia is very patriarchal. In order to change the culture first of all we have to bring about a social and behavioural change, especially in regard to sexual reproductive health. Sometimes the measure of a man’s masculinity is still tied up with the number of children he has – often by different women – and this opens up a whole raft of problems that tend to be borne by women. We need to change men’s attitudes towards sex in order to begin to combat HIV/AIDS, because this tendency to have children with multiple partners is a primary way to spread the condition among communities. We work with peer support a lot. We train people on particular subjects and try to involve everyone – men as well as women. The facilitators become a voice for those who have been victimised. They are the ones who can combat the distortion in the way people think and hopefully that will impact on how they act. Women need to be able to assert themselves if their husband is sleeping with other women and take steps to protect themselves".

"We also combat child abuse by bringing in protective policies in congregations. Now anyone who deals with children needs to sign a document to prove they are not abusers. We need to respect the voices of children".

“Another big problem we face is violence - there is lots of male on female violence and we are putting legal protections in place that women fleeing violence can access. There has long been an idea within the church that ‘God hates divorce’ and the church has been too quiet about domestic violence for too long. Women should not feel obliged to stay in an abusive relationship. In order to combat domestic violence we also offer pre-marriage counselling so that both partners can have a better expectation of what a good marriage could be like.”

“The United Church of Zambia tries to combat the tribalism among our political leaders as well. There are 1060 congregations within the country and sometimes up to 5,000 members in a congregation. The Vice-President of the country is a member. We should be able to use this membership to change minds and cultures within the country.” (Source: Life and Work)

"Under my leadership UCZ have more than 200 self-help groups of between 15 to 20 members each. I have managed to train 720 leaders in missional congregations, among which are 30 reverends and 50 deaconesses".

We are thankful for:
* the biodiversity and natural wonders in these lands
* church leaders who have spoken out and countered sexual violence and human rights abuses
* those who are dealing with challenges of migration
* stable governance and economies, and rising living standards for the people.
We pray for:
* greater food security for those most vulnerable, especially in times of climate change
* an end to political and economic corruption
* rising standards of living, particularly for those most poor
* an end to exploitation of resources and of the people, especially those who are young and/or female.

Oh God, our Father, of all the people of the earth, look with favour upon us and hear the prayer we make for our country Zambia.  We ask for your loving guidance upon all men and women in all that they do so that your blessings will be upon them.
We thank you for your protection and the peace that we have enjoyed in this country for the past 50 years. We thank you for the peace you gave us especially during the Golden Jubilee celebration as an independent nation. Let the jubilee celebrations bring more blessings to our country. We, therefore, pray for all our leaders who are serving your people in various capacities that you will give them wisdom and knowledge to know you as the sovereign Lord who created the heavens and the earth and that you are the only God among all. You deserve to be praised.
We remember especially our political leaders and ask you to bless the work of their hand and to guide their decision so that our country may continue to be peaceful and that we may deserve an honoured place among all nations.
We pray for the young men and women upon whom the future of this country depends.  Teach them to be responsible citizens so that they can grow in the knowledge of your word, in the fear of sin and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world for the salvation of humankind.
We pray for all churches in Zambia. Bless all the clergy, the church workers, deaconesses and all the church members. Help us all to witness to others so that we all may be one in Christ Jesus.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and protect us.  In the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord we pray, because he reigns for ever and ever.  Amen
(Sarah S. Kaulule, The United Church of Zambia, former vice moderator of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order)

God of love, God of compassion,
in the midst of death and evil, you mercifully look after us:
protecting, providing and smiling, constantly reassuring us of your care.
Your love is life. Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may acquire a heart of wisdom,
through him whose life has become our light, even Jesus Christ.
(Rev. Dr Augustine Musopole, Malawi. In: Africa Praying: A Handbook on HIV/AIDS Sensitive Sermon Guidelines and Liturgy, ed. Musa W. Dube, WCC, 2003, pp.164, 11-12, 89)

We are all affected by HIV/AIDS;
we are the body of Christ.
We have lost close relatives;
heal our bodies.
We have lost close friends and neighbours;
heal our hearts.
We have lost church and work mates;
heal our spirits.
We have lost our hope;
heal our minds.
We put our trust in you.
You are Emmanuel,
you are God With Us.
You will never leave us or forsake us.
You will be with us to the end of the ages.
(Fulata L. Moyo, Malawi, and Musa W. Dube, Botswana. In: Africa Praying: A Handbook on HIV/AIDS Sensitive Sermon Guidelines and Liturgy, ed. Musa W. Dube, WCC, 2003, p.44.)

More about Deaconess Mable Sichali:
She writes: “I was born into a Christian family from the UCZ. My father died when I was a young girl in 1984, causing life to change for us. We had very little school sponsorship as my mother was a civil servant and was poorly paid, and so to survive I had to work to raise money to go to school. It was survival of the fittest. One day in September 1992 my elder sister’s son suddenly became ill. At church that day I felt the peace of God and had the conviction that I was being called to serve. This was a problem, having moved we were attending the Evangelical Church of Zambia, which has no female pastors and does not allow women to preach in front of men. However, over the following years I was surrounded by such a great witness of men and women of God who encouraged me to join the ministry. In 2004 I was admitted at the UCZ theological college and my journey as a diaconal worker in the UCZ started. During my first appointment in Mazabuka I coordinated women’s work in three consistories, and in 2007 I founded Tugwashanye Support Network, an organisation working with orphans, vulnerable children, and widows, living with HIV and AIDS. In March 2014 I was appointed as Community Development Social and Justice Secretary, and currently work on projects including self-help groups (partnered by the Church of Scotland), and continue to negotiate for gender based violence support. When I look back and reflect on my life I feel I have come from nowhere. I never knew that one day I would tell my story because I never saw anything good coming out of my life. However I have seen the grace of God in my life – I am now a head of department and the first Deaconess to serve at management level in the history of the UCZ.” (sourced from an article on Church of Scotland website)

(From a report by Training for Transformation)
During 2010/2011 the UCZ, with the help of Gossner Mission and Church of Scotland, partnered with Training for Transformation and sent 5 participants including myself to study community development education at TfT. I graduated with a Diploma with good grades. After the training, I continued co-ordinating a congregation and running an organisation I founded in 2007 through the social services committee. I served as an Executive Director and congregation chairperson as well as zone leader for Christian Women Fellowship. Two and half years later, I was appointed as Community Development and Social Justice Secretary, breaking the record because since the church’s inception, I am the first deaconess to hold a senior management position – a position I still hold today; all because of TfT.
Through the skills and knowledge I gained from TfT, I have become brave to face the challenges with boldness. My dialogue, advocacy and facilitation skills have improved tremendously. My writing and English language has also improved, I am no longer ashamed to speak in public and I am able to address any audience. I am more focused than ever. I always have relevant information at my fingertips and am ready for any situation. My research and public speaking skills have greatly improved and have enabled me to represent the church in high profile meetings, both at local and international levels. My facilitation skills have given me a platform to conduct workshops in many places. My negotiations skills have also given me an opportunity to work with different partners both at local and international level and one such interaction resulted in me sourcing funding to buy a wafer-making machine. I recently also found sponsors for the construction of a ‘Child and Mother Care Centre’, to mitigate the impact of teenage pregnancies and early marriage.
I have developed a passion for children, especially after the death of my infant daughter. I have become an activist and initiated the formulation of a child protection policy which UCZ did not have. I now speak with so much passion and dedication all because of TfT. In November 2015, I lobbied to go to Geneva to a high profile meeting, for a stronger voice for Children’s Rights. I went with my 6 month old baby and was the only African woman challenging the activists (and doing so with my baby on my back!). My son was one of the delegates representing children the world over.
It is gratifying to say that during my tenure of office, UCZ has more community projects than before and I have managed to send 9 Deaconesses for TFT, with 6 ready for the 2017 intake. I supervise more than 50 deaconesses.
I am now a member of a circle of African women theologians. My preaching is no longer that of control. I am very practical. I now listen a lot and respect everyone. I work with more satisfaction now than before. TfT made me discover myself. I have found meaning for all that I do now and I feel called to serve.

(If anyone has further information about the Deaconesses in Zambia, please contact Rev Sandy Boyce, President, DIAKONIA World Federation,

No comments:

Post a Comment