Malawian Government Promises to Consult Religious Leaders on COVID-19 Measures

New COVID-19 Guidelines issued by Malawi's Government

The Government of Malawi has responded to the concerns raised by the Catholic Bishops in the country that they had been excluded in the process of formulating and announcing new COVID-19 guidelines.

In the statement dated August 9 obtained by ACI Africa, the leadership of Malawi’s Ministry of Health acknowledges the role of faith-based leaders and their respective followers and promises to engage them going forward.

“In recognition of the integral role of the faith community in the fabric of Malawian society in general and the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in particular, the Ministry has resolved to engage religious leaders in further consultations,” Malawi’s Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda says.

The aim of the consultations, the Health Minister says, is “to reach a consensus regarding contextualized methods of applying the rules to religious gatherings that protect religious freedom without compromising the public safety the rules are designed to achieve.”

On August 9, members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM)  issued a collective statement expressing their displeasure at the manner in which the leadership of the country issued directives for the Prevention, Containment, and Management of COVID-19 without engaging them.


The directives issued on August 8 by the country’s Attorney General, Dr. Chikosa Silungwe suspended public worship and related gatherings immediately, a move the Bishops considered unfair as they had “diligently applied” previous guidelines since reopening of places of worship in May.

“They have taken us by surprise. We were neither informed nor consulted despite the fact that we have been in the forefront lobbying for COVID-19 compliant behavior,” ECM members said in their August 9 statement, in reference to the Government directives.

In the August 9 one-page notice, the Health Minister notes that consultations with members of the faith community “will guide the Ministry's efforts to have compliance mechanisms that cause minimum disruptions to the sustainability of the core activities of religious groups.”

The outcome of these consultations, the Minister says, will be communicated to the public by the Ministry when concluded.

“In the meantime, the Ministry wishes to express gratitude to the leaders of various faith groups and religious bodies for directing and urging their members to fully comply with the gazetted rules until there is further guidance from Government when warranted by new data on the evolving situation on the ground,” the Health Minister says.

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