, 25 May, 2020 / 9:48 PM
Catholic Bishops in the Southeastern Africa nation of Malawi have, in a collective message, outlined eight issues they describe as “current concerns and challenges that need urgent attention.”
The issues are contained in the Bishops’ May 24 Pastoral Letter shared with ACI Africa in which they make reference to their previous collective messages over close to three decades (since 1992).
“More than ever before, the need for ushering in “a new era in Malawi” has reached a critical stage where we can either degenerate into a failed state or rise to a unified, orderly and prosperous nation,” the Bishop say and explain eight issues of concern ranging from interpersonal relationships, governance, health as well as the environment.
Top on the list of the Bishops’ concern is the rising “evils of tribalism and regionalism,” which they term a departure “from the unifying spirit of our forefathers.”
“This is shown by tribal political talk, nepotism, forms of favoring one’s own area and one’s own region as well as the practice whereby politicians seek to gain votes by whipping up the anger of voters against other tribes and regions,” the members of Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) explain.
They call on Malawians to avoid discriminations on the basis of tribe and region because “this is a very dangerous road.”
The Bishops are also concerned about “increased acts of political violence”, which they say they condemn “in the strongest terms possible.”
“Anyone who subscribes to this form of violence is not consistent with the type of a leader we have described above and must not be voted into power,” the leaders of the eight Ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Malawi say in their May 24 collective statement.
The rising cases of corruption in Malawi is also a concern for the Catholic Bishops who, in the same pastoral letter, express their concerns about impunity in the Southeastern Africa nation.
“There are many reported cases of corruption and plunder of national resources at all levels,” the members of ECM lament and explain, “Cashgate opened our eyes to the reality of fraud in our midst which remains a problem to this day in Malawi.”
They note that “the biggest victims of these evils are the poor and vulnerable people. This calls for strong, decisive and exemplary leadership at the top.”
The Bishops bemoan “rising levels of impunity in some sections of our society.”
“As we have said many times before, the killing of people with albinism, the so-called mob justice and the killing of elderly persons suspected of being witches is utterly repulsive,” the Catholic Bishops in Malawi explain and call for “a speedy conclusion of these cases and a complete stop to these barbaric acts.”
They go on to denounce the “dysfunctional systems of public service delivery” in their country which they say “are greatly challenged and breaking down.”
On the COVID-19, the Bishops say that the pandemic has exposed how “under resourced our health system is in terms of infrastructure, equipment and personnel” and that the reason is that “for a long time we have not put enough resources into the system and some of the little that has been put into it has been misused.”
“The education system has suffered the same challenges in terms of limited funding, substandard infrastructure, inadequate learning materials, insufficient and under motivated personnel, in addition to unstable curricula,” the Bishops in Malawi say.
“These dysfunctional systems of public service delivery underline the necessity of electing a leader with the qualities such as: honesty, democratic, transformational leadership, visionary, selflessness, servant leadership,” they say.
With 83 cases of COVID-19 recorded in the country, the members of ECM are concerned about the “lack of consistency” in observing the precautionary measures and sections of society who “deny the existence of this disease.”
“As we have stated in our recent statements, COVID-19 is real and deadly,” the Bishops say and add, “In the event of imposing restriction on mobility there would be need for social support for the poor and the vulnerable and such support should not be politicized.”
They express their appreciation for the efforts of the government and the international community in finding resources and setting up committees in response to COVID-19 and call for more inclusive and coordinated approach, more public awareness campaigns and transparent use of resources.
The Bishops are also concerned about the “continued environmental degradation,” which they say is clearly “manifested in the accelerated destruction of natural resources like forests and natural habitats as well as the failure to seriously develop renewable energies.”
“We risk desertification of our land, creating food insecurity in the country and increasing the gap between the rich and the poor,” they caution.
Referencing Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, the Bishops say that “the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people.”
As their country prepares for a re-run election following the cancellation of last year’s Presidential poll both by the constitutional court in February and the Supreme court in May, the Bishops are concerned about the “challenges related to holding a credible election.”
Their concerns about the process of election scheduled for July revolve around “the loss of public trust and confidence in the current Malawi Electoral Commissioners, inconsistency in the determination of electoral calendar, vandalism of MEC equipment, lack of security in centres where MEC is processing voter transfers and issuing duplicate voter certificates, and biased, unprofessional and defamatory reporting by the public broadcaster, MBC.”
“We are also concerned with the general abuse of freedom of expression by political party zealots on social media by among others, fabricating all forms of falsehood, lies and rumor mongering,” the Bishops in Malawi add, calling “upon all Malawians to exercise extra vigilance to ensure that the electoral process is transparent.”
“Let there be issue-based campaign. Above all, it calls for a leadership that can provide appropriate direction and supervision,” they urge.
“We call upon all duty bearers to ensure that the forthcoming presidential election is free, fair, credible and peaceful,” they say adding, “We also urge all Malawians to go and vote and vote wisely, keeping in mind the consequences of not voting or not voting wisely.”
They implore God’s divine intervention for a successful electoral process saying, “Let us continue to pray and seek God’s guidance for the success of this election.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa