…We Should not be Taken for Granted… We are not Playing, We are not Joking!!!

In a scathing rebuke, the newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Ndola, H.E. Msgr. Benjamin Phiri, has strongly condemned the police’s actions in disrupting church services in the diocese last Sunday.

Archbishop His Grace, the Most Reverend Dr Phiri expressed deep concern over the incident, describing it as a blatant violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion and assembly.

“We are not playing, we are not joking here,” the visibly irate Archbishop said. “I found it strange, and I do not know which law is being used by the police officers for them to detain [a congregant] without sufficient reasoning.”

The Archbishop, was referring to the incident at Divine Mercy Parish, where a 66-year-old parishioner, Mr. Kamwale Phiri, was arrested for simply taking photographs of the heavy police presence around the church.

“If I was there, I would have done the same,” the Archbishop declared. “It’s not prohibited to take pictures in this country, especially if you are on your own premises.”

“When I was told of the police presence, I asked the people who told me what the police were looking for and they told me looks like they are looking for opposition leaders.
I said the Church is a wrong place to look for opposition leaders.
I advised my leaders to continue monitoring the situation and report to me,” he said.

The police’s actions extended to the Masala area, where they reportedly “arrived and took over the premises, controlling who comes in and who goes out.” The Archbishop made it clear that he did not authorize such an intrusion, describing it as an “illegal action on our property.”

“At Masala they [police] arrived and took over the premises controlling who come in and who goes out [the church] . I did not authorise that action so it was an illegal action on our property! I expect government to give a good explanation for that rather than the statement which was off the cuff by the police spokesperson.”

Addressing the police spokesperson’s statement, the Archbishop scathingly remarked, “I am not happy about the whole situation, I have made it known to the government, and I do not want such a situation to repeat itself.”

The Archbishop’s stern words reflect the deep unease within the Catholic community in Zambia, who fear that their right to freely practice their faith is under threat.

“People are free to gather and worship,” the Archbishop emphasized. “They should not be unduly inconvenienced or intimidated.”

The incident has raised concerns about the government’s approach to religious institutions, particularly in the wake of the ongoing political tensions in the country. The Archbishop warned that the church will not be taken for granted, and he urged the government to treat the church with respect and engage it properly.

As the Catholic faithful in Ndola and across Zambia grapple with this distressing situation, the Archbishop’s unwavering stance serves as a clarion call for the protection of religious freedoms and the rule of law in the nation.


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