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Zambian authorities deport priest for homily on poverty and justice

LUSAKA (CNS): Authorities in Zambia deported a Catholic priest after he was detained for two days and questioned for preaching about poverty and justice for the poor during Mass. 

Edgar Lungu, the minister of home affairs, confirmed that Father Viateur Banyangandora, the parish priest of Lundazi, was sent back to his homeland of Rwanda on August 1.

He declined to say why the 40-year-old priest was deported, but claimed, “Father Banyangandora’s conduct was found to be a danger to peace and good order in Zambia.” 

Father Evan Sakala, parochial vicar of the parish, explained that Father Banyangandora was picked up by police at about 5.00pm on July 30 and taken to the capital, Lusaka, for questioning. 

He added that police pointed to comments that Father Banyangandora made castigating the government over its handling of an impasse between cotton growers and cotton ginners.

He said that he thinks the authorities may have thought the remarks could incite people to rise against the government. 

The Zambian government and the Cotton Association of Zambia have been unable to reach an agreement on the price of cotton being paid to growers.

The stalemate has led the association to halt the sale of cotton to the Cotton Ginners Association of Zambia, which offered a price more than 50 per cent lower than its 2011 offer.

The impasse has led some farmers to burn cotton stockpiles in protest. 

Bishop George Cosmas Zumaire Lungu, from Chipata, confirmed on August 1 that a team of security personnel picked up the priest from his residence on July 30.

Father Banyangandora, a native of Rwanda, was ordained for the Chipata diocese in 2004. 

An August 6 statement from Bishop Lungu, published on the website of the Zambia Episcopal Conference, expressed anger at the government’s actions. 

The statement offered a detailed account of the priest’s arrest and two-day detention. The bishop said a reversal of the deportation would maintain peace and unity in the country.

“There was no order and there was no justice because he was not given time to say bye to people,” the bishop, who is not related to the home affairs minister, said.

“We earnestly urge the government to address the real issues that are today affecting the poor people,” he continued. 

Bishop Lungu said the government has grossly violated both human and the constitutional rights of clergy, explaining that Father Banyangandora was exercising his prophetic duty as a shepherd of the people by speaking for the poor......

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