The Church and Language…the matter brewing in Mongu is extremely sensitive and has capacity to spread across the country- Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba


The Church and Language

“…the matter brewing in Mongu is extremely sensitive and has capacity to spread across the country…

By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba

A Youth activist, Wamuwi Mushokabanji led a horde of youths to protest at the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) “All Saints Congregation” in Mongu, against the use of Bemba language in sermons and songs at the congregation.

His Grace, UCZ Bishop Roy Kanchele is accused of using Bemba language in his sermons.

This vigilantism must immediately be stopped. There are far better mechanisms to resolve these historical and century-old distortions.

Besisdes churches use intepretation services, and most of the issue of the use of dominant languages is related to the areas of the Churches founding in Zambia.

It’s like stopping the SDA singing tonga songs in Chipata or Kasama or Choma stopping the Catholic Church from singing bemba songs.

The matter brewing in Mongu is sensitive, dangerous and has capacity to spread across the country and must be handled well and the deployment and threat of using youths and vigilantees to force changes must be curbed.

The Christian God was introduced to Africans and were made to accept through the language of English, Latin, French, Portuguese, and Spanish!


A Brief History of the Church in Zambia

Churches in Zambia have a history and heritage, hence the current dominant use of certain languages in their sermons and songs.

The Seventh Day Adventist missionaries W.H. Anderson and his wife traveled to Zambia and established the mission at Rusangu in Southern Province in 1905.

The Catholic Church was introduced in 1895 when the White Fathers Missionaries under Bishop Joseph Dupont established the first mission at Kayambi in the Northern Province.

There were earlier catholic incursions by Portuguese Dominicans in 1730 and later jesuit missions in Livingstone and Broken Hill (Kabwe) in 1927.

The Western region was first evangelised in 1931 when Italian Franciscan came to Ndola and the Irish Capuchins opened in Missions in Livingstone and Mongu.

Earlier, Henry Depelchin, a Belgian Jesuit, led a band of jesuits, while waiting for authority to enter Barotseland, in 1880, arrived in Chiefdom of Mweemba of the Tonga people of Southern Province.

Chief Mweemba gave them permission and granted them land at Siameja Village. When Lewanika finally gave the Jesuits permission to meet him, the King is said to have refused their permission to establish a mission in Mkn3gu and the the area, which resulted in the failure of the mission.

George Henwood Mkandawire, a Nyasaland native, moved from Capetown to Livingstone to found the first New Apostolic Church congregation in Northern Rhodesia in 1928 Henwood was the first Community Elder.

Presbyterians entered Zambia through the work of the Church of Scotland in 1899.

The first Anglican Missionaries arrived in 1861 but established the first missionaries in 1911 and 1912 at Msoro and Mapanza, respectively

Explorer and missionary, David Livingstone representing the London Missionary Society(LMS),was the first Protestant missionary Zambia and later making three trips to the country in1851,1853 and 1873 and died at Chitambo, in Serenje.

Frederick Stanley Arnot,a Plymouth Brethren Missionary, settled in Barotseland,Lealui, in 1882.

The first London Mission was also set up at Nyiamukolo, Kawimbe, and Fwambo(Modern Day Mpulungu and Mbala) in 1883.

The Paris Missionary Society led by François Coilla, accompanied by his wife and Sotho evangelists, and established his first mission at Sefula, Sesheke and Kazungula.

The Presybeterian Missionary Society (PMS) entered through Nyasaland establishing their first mission in Northern Rhodesia at Mwenzo near Tanzania in 1894 at Lubwe and Chitambo.

The four protestant church organizations namely the London Missionary Society, the Primitive Methodists Missionary Society(PMMS) (a break-away from the Wesleyan Methodist Church), the Paris Missionary Society(PMS), the London Missionary Society(LMS) and the Presbyterian Church formed the United Church of Zambia(UCZ).

The United Church of Central Africa and now part of the United Church of Zambia owes its work from the London Missionary Society and the Church of Scotland from Nyasaland.

Lubwa Mission in Chinsali was the first outpost of the Church of Scotland in 1905.

A mission school was opened in 1905, run by a Nyasaland couple, David Kaunda and Hellen Kaunda (parents of Zambia’s first Republican President).

The work to unite the two missions started in 1945. In 1958, the act of union was signed. In 1965, the church united with the Methodist Church and the Church of Barotseland to form the United Church of Zambia.

The church mainatins its roots with Methodist Church in the United Kingdom, the Church of Scotland, the United Church of Canada, and the Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ in the United States.



  1. It is indeed sensitive, but unnecessarily so. Any worthwhile preacher will use the common language in the area of his congregation. With due respect to church history, preachers are always mindful that they communicate not to themselves, but to their congregants.

    If this pastor does not know Lozi, he should preach in English with the services of an interpreter.

    There is no need to create controversy where none exists if only common sense without prejudice prevailed.

      • . We should also understand that most congregants in these churches are not from Western Province. Especially those in UCZ. They’re simply there for work.
        Moreover why hate Bemba which belongs to Zambia and not hate English which belongs to some country 99% of Zambians don’t even know but just read about?.
        This primitivity continues creating cracks in our efforts to unite as a one country.
        Otherwise there’s no issue here but ultmost stupidity by the disgruntled youths.
        And now you wonder why RB (MHSRIP) had to send soldiers to inflict discipline in my cousins.

  2. Kuba pritimitive uku! When Kambwili tells them that they are Tribalists they refuse! What else can be more tribal than hate for another tribal, hate for the Bemba tribal! Small tribes in Zambia should just accept that the Bemba speaking people make up 40% of the population of this country! And that about 80% of Zambia’s population are able to speak Bemba, while 96% are able to understand Bemba! Bemba is like English on the international scene. English is spoken by more than 50% of the world population! So if most UCZ songs are written in Bemba because it’s spoken by most of the congregants should that be an issue for protests! Come on Zambians let’s direct our energies to producing more food!

    • You have just generated more heat than light in your posting. The issue is more complicated than that. Language issues are a sensitive in many parts of the world and have even led to violence or nation break-up. The Christian church is just over a hundred years in Zambia. It was brought here by missionaries from Europe and North America who were willing to learn African languages which they actually learned the hard way because there were no interpreters. You do not know what else happens when some languages die out. The native speakers of marginalised languages also encounter marginalisation in other walks of life. The native speakers of chosen languages also tend to develop imperial attitudes and snobbery towards their fellow citizens.

  3. Can anyone tell me which church in Kasama or Mansa preaches in Lozi and why? If NOT, why NOT?
    This is arrogance and disrespectful of the communities that welcomed them? It is simply NOT wise for leader LET alone a Bible teacher to be so insensitive and arrogant.

  4. Foreign preachers were able to learn Zambian languages. What’s wrong with fellow Zambians learning other Zambian languages? It’s this that I find unacceptable.

  5. Christianity was not introduced in Zambia through Latin, English and Spanish languages. In fact it was introduced by European and American priests who first learned local languages. It was after learning the local language of the area that they started the hard work of converting Africans to Christianity. Why’s the Christian church not interested in preserving this proud history?


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