Eight years after President Frederick Chiluba officially declared Zambia to be a "Christian nation," the declaration is largely meaningless, according to church leaders and officials. On December 30, 1991, Zambia's newly installed president declared this small, southern African nation a Christian state, despite opposition from some Christian and Muslim leaders. Prominent church officials interviewed by Ecumenical News International (ENI) this week said that the declaration had become increasingly "hollow," as Zambia faces mounting social, political and economic problems, including widespread corruption. Archbishop John Mambo, head of a 1.5 million-member Protestant denomination, the Church of God in Zambia, said there had been a rise in "immorality and corruption in our country which puts a question mark on our being called a Christian nation."

Archbishop Mambo told ENI: "There is very little to show that we are a Christian nation with so much wrong-doing, both in private and public life. There is nothing to distinguish us from secular nations. This is sad."

Joe Komakoma, a priest and executive secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), agreed that immorality had increased, especially among government leaders.

Komakoma said leaders were amassing wealth in dubious ways, leaving ordinary people uncared for. "Lust for money, power and social privileges has been made to look like a virtue. This has resulted in the worsening of social indicators, high poverty levels, widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, endemic corruption and a sharp rise in crime."

Thomas Lumba, a pastor and national director of the 2-million-member Evangelical Fellowship churches, also said that rising poverty was at odds with ...

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