Bishop Zuza 'asked to apologise' over sermon

By Evelyn Chibwe, Nyasa Times 

Revelations are emerging that Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Chairperson of the Malawi Council of Churches, who was the master of ceremony at the National Day of Prayers on Tuesday, had asked Catholic Bishop Thomas Luke Msusa of the Zomba Diocese to impress on Head of the Catholic Church in Malawi, His Grace Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza to give a written apology for his straight-talking English sermon.

The prayers, whose theme was “A Nation Seeking God’s Intervention in Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Peace,” were organized by the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) as a “moment of reflection on the turn of events surrounding July 20, 2011 public demonstrations”.

In the presence of President Bingu wa Mutharika and his wife, Calista, Bishop Zuza admonished those who have “more authority” for threatening the civil society organizations, the faith community and the media in the face of the deteriorating social, economic, governance and political situation in Malawi.

Bishop Zuza: Gave candid talk in his homily

He called on President Mutharika, his governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the opposition, the NGOs and everyone to avoiding pointing fingers at each other but to “examine their consciences” and “turn their weaknesses into strengths” so that Malawi continues to enjoy peace.

The Bishop also bluntly told the congregation that the Catholic clergy would not be cowed into submission but would always raise the voice of reason whenever authorities depart from their obligation to serve and not oppress the civilians as such was their prophetic responsibility.

A source within the organizing clergy confided in Nyasa Times on Wednesday that after the prayers, it transpired that Bishop Bvumbwe was not amused by Bishop Zuza’s sermon, which seemingly and largely admonished the president. He contacted Bishop Msusa to convince his colleague to write an apology to the president, which the latter has refused.

“Bishop Bvumbwe felt Mutharika was ambushed; apparently the president was assured that the officiating clergy would only concentrate on condemning the organizers of the July 20 and August 17 demonstrations,” said the source.

When contacted for comment, Bishop Msusa said he would not comment on the issue but said he genuinely believe Bishop Zuza gave his sermon within the parameters of the Christian faith.

Bvumbe denied having asked for an apology from the respected Catholic Bishop.

Indeed, President Mutharika was initially not on the programme to attend the meeting until the last minute.

However, it has transpired that Bvumbwe, who has close ties with the president, and presidential aide on religious affairs, Billy Gama, impressed upon the president that “all was going to be well,” particularly that the First Lady Calista Mutharika had pumped in funds to the tune of K5 million for the impromptu prayers with a view to countering the August 17 ‘vigil’ organized by the civil society organizations.

The August 17 vigils across the country have since been postponed to pave way for dialogue, according to the organizers. But, at least in Blantyre, most businesses were closed and streets deserted as most people fear violence would erupt as was the case on July 20 where property was damaged and at least 18 people died.

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