“Very distasteful, divisive”: Malawi’s Catholic Bishops Decry Utterances Fomenting Religious Intolerance

Catholic Bishops in Malawi, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gian Luca Perici (in white), and the Secretary General of ECM, Fr. Valeriano Mtseka (in coat). Credit: Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM)

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) are decrying utterances spread through social media posts that they say are likely to undermine efforts towards interreligious dialogue in the Southern African nation and endanger the existent unity in the religious diversity of Malawians. 

In a Monday, May 6 statement, the Secretary General of ECM, Fr. Valeriano Mtseka, weighs in on what he describes as “some very distasteful and divisive messages circulating in social media whose content is completely against the spirit and practice of Inter-religious Dialogue and Peaceful Co-existence of Faith Groups.”

“The ECM wishes to condemn such utterances and messages in the strongest terms possible,” Fr. Valerian says.

A video recording by one, Isaiah Sunganimoyo, widely circulated via WhatsApp, triggered the ECM Secretary General’s statement.

Speaking in Chichewa, one of the Bantu languages spoken mainly in Malawi and in some parts of Zambia and Mozambique, Isaiah, who identifies himself as Catholic, threatens to revenge against persons behind the abduction, torture, and assault of a Catholic Nun in an April 11 incident.


Having been raised by Catholic Nuns, Isaiah says, he considers all Nuns as “my mothers”. Therefore, he says in the video recording ACI Africa obtained, “whoever does anything bad to them (Catholic Nuns) will be dealt with.”

According to ECM members, the April 11 abduction, torture, and assault of the Catholic Nun involved “unknown occupants of a car that stopped for her pretending to be good Samaritans.”

“In the course of assaulting her, the assailants told the Catholic Nun that the assault was due to the fact that they do not subscribe to her faith and to her identity as a Religious,” Catholic Bishops in Malawi recounted in their April 12 statement. 

They added, “The assailants went further and demonstrated their intolerance by forcefully removing and throwing out of the car window the Rosary and the Cross she was wearing and thus leaving her hurt, helpless and traumatized.”

Emphasizing the right to freedom of religious practice that they said is enshrined Malawi’s Constitution, ECM members went on to recall their February 25 Pastoral letter in which they warned Malawians against “developing tendencies that demonstrate Religious intolerance.”

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“Since this particular matter has been left in the hands of the law enforcers they will diligently investigate this horrific attack on the Catholic nun and other similar cases, so that justice is done and that these degenerating hateful tendencies of religious intolerances are curtailed and dealt with once and for all,” Catholic Bishops in Malawi said.

Isaiah’s threats to revenge against the assailants of the Catholic Nun are a demonstration of religious intolerance and works against efforts towards interreligious dialogues and peaceful co-existence among people of different faith practices, Fr. Valeriano told ACI Africa in a Wednesday, May 8 interview in which he linked his May 6 statement to Isaiah’s video recording that he said has been widely shared on social media.  

In the one-page statement, Fr. Valeriano says that ECM members “completely dissociate the Catholic Church from such cowardly acts and utterances that not only militate against national always cherished and promoted and will continue to stand for.”

Alluding to the revenge threats in the video recording, Malawi’s Catholic Bishops “remind all Catholics of one of the fundamental teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ namely: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’” he says, referring to Matthew 5:9.

“As believers, our fight is not against fellow human beings but against poverty, disease, hunger, corruption and spiritual forces of evil,” ECM members further say, and add, “Peaceful Co-existence of believers are among the things that our Lord prayed for during his very last hours in this world: ‘May they all be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you.’”


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