Zambia: Thou shall not Shame…the Church but How about #ChurchMeToo?

A great many people believe the church to be a place of solace, of grace and of peace. A place you go to when you’re hurting and beaten, a place for restoration. But what happens when you no longer feel safe there?
A few weeks ago, Zambian artist Ludo Freshe took to twitter and opened up about a sexual assault encounter that involved a man of God. She has previously, as a firm advocate for women’s rights and well-being, spoken about this assault but has now put a name to her story.
Ludo is a poet, rapper and singer with songs like Daddy Knows Best, Side Chicks Anonymous and most Recently Men Are Trash where she discusses the importance of women and highlights always knowing their worth in spite of various struggles they may face. Her music is designed to uplift and inspire.
So of course the #zedtwitter timeline was shook by her. The Christians were shook, and as this man of God at the center of sexual assault allegations is a former secular artist, it is undeniable that the music industry and general public too was shook.
Reactions to her story and revelation have varied. We’ve had a number of people come out and offer solidarity, understanding that she was violated in her moment of vulnerability. Others have treaded the usual line about timing and reporting asking why she has not come out to ask and   after all these years (the incident in question happened between 2014-2015) why she’s finally decided to put a name to the incident. Others still have been callous, asking “did he smash?”
The most surprising thing, for me, (well perhaps all in all its not that surprising after all) is that The Church has been quiet. (With regards to this, perhaps I should be clearer and say that The Church here refers to Christians and not a specific church building, denomination or church body).
Many individuals have popped up to question her allegations. A great many more have claimed she’s out to tarnish the man’s name but they are not addressing the problem at hand. Not really.

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
We live in Zambia. Zambia was declared a Christian nation on December 29, 1991. Zambia has a Ministry of Religious affairs and National Guidance. Against this background one wonders why they do not speak more about the violations against women made by men of God.
The Ministry was quick to speak against and deport South African Zodwa Wabantu (because she apparently doesn’t wear underwear), and to say they’ll call in Kay Figo, a popular Zambian musician, for a picture that went viral because it was declared lewd, but are silent when people say men of God have hurt them.  How will you inspire someone to run to the church for help when we have no action taken against men that we call out in the religious system?
As for the victim shamers, why are we so quick to ask why someone wants to tarnish the image of a pastor but say nothing about how he has violated the body and spirit of a woman? This poses the question, what is really more important to The Church? The well-being of our spirits as Christians or the image of the institution of religion and the men (and women) who run it?
We’re so quick to quote scripture saying, “touch not my anointed” but what happened to removing the log in our eyes before going after removing the spec in another’s eye? If the very same person who is meant to help you heal is hurting you, is it not right to speak your truth before he hurts someone else?
We can say all that we like, and believe what we will, but we should not invalidate someone else’s hurt.
May we learn to be more honest, to discuss the discrepancies in our own systems. It’s the Christians that circulate these “issues of moral decay” and then take them to the attention of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, but why don’t we take the issues that actually matter? Why are we failing each other? We have so many opinion leaders and very few are speaking out. As you read this do ask yourself, have you done enough?

Esnala Banda is a Zambian poet, writer, blogger and afro-creative passionate about women and sharing their stories. She also has experience in marketing and photography and has worked with a number international brands, and advertising agencies.  She is currently a freelance writer  for Nkwazi Magazine, African Feminism, Zambia Travel Magazine and Okay Africa.
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