To all Catholics and people of good will in Malawi; We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy. God is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). He revealed Himself to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). In this “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), by his words, actions, and entire person, Jesus of Nazareth reveals the mercy of God, our Father (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 1).
The wellspring of the Christian joy, serenity, and peace is mercy. First, because it is the supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Second, because it is the fundamental law that dwells in our hearts when we look sincerely into the eyes of our brothers and sisters on the path of life. Finally, it is also the bridge that connects us with God, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness and numerous challenges (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 2). Our joys and hopes, our troubles and sorrows, are not indifferent to God. He realizes the difficulties which we experience daily. Through His Mercy, the Lord never abandons us. He feels responsible for each one of us; He desires our wellbeing and He wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which our Christian merciful love must also travel! (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 9).
We, the Catholic Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, guided by Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus which highlights God’s mercy particularly to those undergoing suffering and difficult times believe that this is the opportune time for us to pass on a message that offers hope, challenges our way of life and calls us to reconciliation with God, fellow human beings and the entire creation (cf. Misericordiae Vultus). The Jubilee of Mercy offers us a path of hope, reconstruction and new beginning guided by God’s mercy and trusting that God is the Father who never forsakes us (Pope Francis’ Homily, at Casa Santa Marta, 14th December 2015).
How many uncertain and painful situations are there in our society today? Few people can be ignorant of the scandalous contrast which exists between those in affluence and the many poor people in both our urban and rural settings. More so, we believe that such poverty is a direct consequence of wrong economic choices made by those in power. This is not, of course, the only social injustice which calls for our moral concern; elements of tribalism/regionalism, lack of fiscal discipline, dwindling standards of education, theft of government money, misplaced priorities, overall shrinking of public service delivery, rising cost of living and persistent hunger are some of the challenges we must address. Concern about these and many more has led us to a more and more questioning attitude on whether as a country we have clues on how to transform the status quo for the better. One thing is crystal clear; we have lost direction in dealing with these critical issues.
As your Pastors, we categorically declare that this is not the moment to resign to despair and fatalism. In this Holy Year, it is our task to bring a word and gesture of consolation to the poor, to proclaim liberty to those bound by new forms of slavery of the modern society, to restore sight to those who can see no more because they are caught up in themselves, to restore dignity to all those from whom it has been robbed (cf. Is 61:1-2). Despite the numerous challenges we are going through as a nation, we are called to be people of hope which is a great gift from God that allows us to see beyond problems, pain, difficulties and our sins. It allows us to see the mercy of God and indeed, “in hope we are saved” (Rom 8:24). Let us always remember that the grandeur of God’s merciful action has the capacity to forgive all our iniquity, heal all our diseases, redeem our life from the pit, crown us with steadfast love and mercy (cf. Ps 103:3-4).
Therefore, in the same spirit of hope, we begin by acknowledging that there are some positive developments taking place in our country which if supported and nurtured can transform the country. We also challenge the entire nation, and those entrusted with leadership positions to seriously consider designing policies and programmes that reduce the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. We call upon our renowned economists to honestly respond to the question: Can an economy and its policies opt for the poor? We recall Pope Francis’ words of encouragement to all Catholics and people of good will to love their country, offering their best and advancing the common good (Pope Francis, A Good Catholic Meddles in Politics, Homily delivered in the Vatican, September 16, 2013). We appeal to all Catholics and people of good will to reaffirm their role in the society of building a just and peaceful society in which respect for the integrity of creation, the dignity of the human person, the right to life for all, the preferential option for the poor and the marginalized, and the dignity of the family will be upheld and respected for the common good.
1. Some positive trends
As citizens of this country, we have every reason to rejoice for the positive developments that have happened in the recent past. We applaud all Malawians for being aware of the need for a Government that is functional. This was clearly demonstrated by your active participation in the 2014 tripartite elections which ushered in a new president, members of parliament and ward councilors.
We want to applaud the Government and other Non-Governmental Organizations for the swift emergency response to flood victims. The response was very commendable and praiseworthy. We thank in a special way our Catholic faithful who demonstrated the spirit of solidarity with those affected by the devastating floods through their contributions in cash and kind. This positive response was a clear testimony that we are called to be our brothers and sisters’ keepers (Gen 4:9). You indeed demonstrated that “mercy is not only an action of the Father; it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who His true children are (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 9). Mercy is a force that reawakens us to a new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope (Miseridiae Vultus, 10).
We follow with keen interest developments in public sector reforms the Government has championed and continues to embark on with an effort to bring about efficient and cost effective public service delivery. Whilst previous Governments had many principal secretaries, the number has been reduced. The rest are either redeployed or retired. The reforms, however, are going even into Government parastatals so that they develop strategic plans that would be implemented to improve service delivery like in water, electricity and many other areas. We need to point out; however, that change is needed in the culture of politics where cronyism and patronage confuse the roles of parastatals. Given the recent commitment of the Leadership of the country on reforms, if followed to the letter, they might bring in much needed confidence and improved service delivery currently lacking in most sectors. This is a positive move towards the right direction. The reforms have the potential to inculcate a hard working spirit, integrity and patriotism in all Malawians in general not only the civil service.
We, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Malawi are aware of the pressure that the Government has endured so far from foreign nations and agencies who attach their financial support to values and practices that are contrary to our culture. We applaud the efforts and the courage the Government has demonstrated so far to resist the pressure to adopt such foreign values and practices i.e. homosexuality and abortion. We wish to reaffirm that such practices are not only against our cultural values but are also contrary to our laws and beliefs.
We are aware of the many efforts the Government is doing to make Malawi a food secure nation through the greenbelt initiative. These efforts are indeed very commendable. We call upon the Government and other likeminded organizations to intensify such efforts through large scale irrigation schemes considering that Malawi is perpetually hit by floods and dry spells. This, in our view, is the only solid response to our perennial food crisis. Ensuring ‘right to food’ of every citizen is part of ensuring respect for the dignity of the human person. These rights are “universal, inviolable and inalienable” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC], 153).
2. Some areas of great concern
Having acknowledged the above positive developments, we seek to highlight our painful realization that our society is not yet what we all desire. First, as your Pastors, we cannot sit back and watch in the face of shrinking standards or lack of public service delivery, increasing gap between the rich and the poor, lack of fiscal discipline and misplaced priorities in the prevailing tough times which call for tough measures. Second, we continue to be worried by continuous presentation of unrealistic macroeconomic growth indicators that do not reflect reality on the ground. We are also deeply worried by the bad performance of our economy. Thirdly, we are deeply concerned with the shortage of maize in the country, the exorbitant prices of the same at the parallel markets of vendors due to increased demand. Finally, we are deeply concerned about new trends in our society that promote a culture of death instead of a culture of life through the abortion campaign. Because of that, the family and the institution of marriage between man and woman are under direct attack from those campaigning for homosexual rights and homosexual unions.
2.1. Pro-Abortion campaign
On the evils of promoting abortion and its unlawfulness, we already made our position clear to you through our 2013 Pastoral letter titled Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality, Abortion, Population and Birth Control. In the face of the new campaign termed ‘safe abortion’, we are compelled to reaffirm our position on the matter as a way of offering direction and guidance.
We reiterate our position on the right to life and dignity of every human person (CSDC, 153). In a country little by little marked by trends in the declining respect for human life, the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of the social teaching. Through the agents of the culture of death, campaigning for abortion legislation, human life is under direct attack.
In these circumstances, we wish to reaffirm that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every society is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person. We, therefore, appeal to our elected representatives in Parliament to promote and defend life by voting no to such legislation. By doing so, they will demonstrate that even the unborn child, not only the mother, has the right to life. The test for us as believers is not simply have we ‘kept the faith,’ but have we shared the faith.
In this Jubilee of Mercy, it is our pastoral duty to call upon all those who are undergoing the tormenting experience of abortion to seek the mercy of God. “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3).
2.2. Dignity of the family and Homosexual rights
Today the institution of marriage is under direct attack from recent campaigns on the rights of homosexuals. Despite these new challenges to the Biblical marriage between man and woman, we reaffirm the Catholic tradition that the Family is the central social institution that must be protected, supported and strengthened and not undermined. Human beings grow and achieve fulfillment in society. However, it is in that nuclear community of father and mother that every person acquires moral principles and coherent values necessary for becoming a reliable citizen.
In our 2013 Pastoral letter, we presented the Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality. Now that the issue has resurfaced, we intend to reaffirm our position. We affirm that the homosexual condition is disordered, but not sinful in itself. We also affirm that once a person with this orientation or indeed a person without this orientation indulges in homosexual acts, such acts must always be judged as objectively evil and totally unacceptable. Whatever the circumstances or reasons behind this disordered orientation, the Church does not condemn or judge someone because of his or her sexual orientation.
In front of the homosexual orientation and homosexual persons, the attitude of the Church is non-judgmental; yes their condition is disordered but not sinful in itself. However, when it comes to homosexual acts or unions, the Church does not mince words: these are objectively evil and totally unacceptable.
From this perspective, we agree with those who have faulted the Government for putting a moratorium on laws governing homosexual acts. This means that those guilty of homosexual acts or unions cannot be prosecuted. The Government has bowed down to pressure from donor community, international bodies and local human rights campaigners. As Pastors, we find this path very unfortunate. It is an act of betrayal on the part of those in power to sell our country to foreign practices and tendencies contrary to the will of God because of money. In the present circumstances, we recall Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words, “truth is not determined by a majority vote”
(Light of the world: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, November 24, 2010). We call upon all Catholics and people of good will to stand up for what is morally right today in the face of the hugely funded campaign for homosexual rights and unions.
While we do not condone homosexual acts or unions because they are sinful, however, we wish to condemn in strongest terms those inciting violence against homosexuals and those guilty of homosexual acts or unions. In this Jubilee of mercy, we recall with gratitude the words of St. John XXIII that indicate to us the path to follow as believers: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity” (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11).
The Lord asks us not to judge and not to condemn (cf. Lk 6:37-38). If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgement, he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister. Above all, the Jubilee of Mercy offers all sinners, including those that indulge in homosexual acts the possibility of experiencing God’s mercy especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope Francis says that the Holy Door of mercy should make everyone during this year experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 3). Therefore, merciful like the Father, is the motto of this Holy Year.
2.3. Shrinking or lack of public service delivery
The Church document entitled Gaudium et Spes describes ‘the Common Good’ as the sum total of social conditions which enable individuals, families, organizations, etc. to achieve their own fulfillment more fully and easily’ (GS, 26). It is lamentable that either wrong economic choices or lack of economic prudence in Government expenditures has led to the shrinking or lack of key public service delivery. There are continued reports of low funding and supply of necessary resources to bring about effective service delivery in many Government departments. As a result of low or no funding at all, for example, many district hospitals have scaled down their operations, their ambulance services grounded, their medical supplies drastically reduced to few essential drugs, provision of meals to patients reduced to only one meal per day.
The deepening healthcare crisis across the country requires special attention of the Government. It is true that we have qualified people in various ministries and departments of our Government. But the Government bears the blame when people delegated to execute different roles fail to perform. The sad and dehumanizing conditions in our public hospitals are unacceptable.
We note with great concern that as a country we do not have a specialized cancer hospital where mammograms are fixed. Many women are being denied access to breast cancer detection equipment and computerized tomography scan. Women requiring such services have to pay a lot of money at private diagnostic facilities. In the present circumstances, we appeal to the Government to show leadership in addressing challenges in sectors or ministries which are not performing. Pope Francis invites us to open our eyes and see the misery of our society, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and heed their cry for help (Misericordiae Vultus, 15).
We remind the Leadership of this country that most poor Malawians depend on public service delivery financed by the Government. Consequently, limited or lack of funding is tantamount to denying them access to better services in education, health, agriculture and water; among many other essential services. This hugely compromises the right to development and a possibility of descent life for many Malawians. The Government’s service delivery systems and policies should be measured on whether they promote, protect and enhance human life and human dignity, especially for the poor and the vulnerable.
2.4. Low revenue generation
We acknowledge that lack of direct budgetary support from development partners has greatly compromised service delivery. However, this should not be an excuse for the untold suffering Malawians continue to face in many rural and urban sectors. While we still need the support from donors, it is our considered view that the development of this country depends on all Malawians through their internally generated revenues (via taxes and levies) and hardworking spirit. What is within our circle of control with or without direct budgetary support is maximizing revenue generation and how well the Government utilizes the generated revenue following set priorities for the common good.
We are compelled to point out that Malawians understand the need for supporting their Government through taxes and levies. However, it is our considered view that the Government is not maximizing on the process of revenue generation. This results in a lot of revenue lost through tax evasion scams by individuals and institutions whose taxes could have gone a long way in supporting service delivery. There is need for political will to support the tax collecting body (Malawi Revenue Authority) to do its job efficiently. We also appeal to all citizens of this country to pay their taxes as an expression of their patriotism.
On revenue generation, we recall the words of Pope Leo XIII, “a society prospers and thrives through … fair imposition of public taxes. All citizens, without exception, ought to contribute to the common good, yet it should not be supposed that all are able to contribute in the same extent. Justice, therefore, demands that the interests of the working classes should be carefully watched over by the Government. Such a policy would enable the working classes, whose labors greatly contribute to the wealth of the community, to share in the benefits they create” (Rerum Novarum, 34).
2.5. Lack of fiscal discipline
The Catholic Social Teaching clearly states that our commitment to the common good requires responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources. The fundamental implication of this principle is the universal destination of the earth’s goods. “Everyone also has the right to enjoy the conditions of social life that are brought about by the quest for the common good” (CSDC, 167). It is for this reason that we would like to remind all Malawians that no amount of revenue will be enough if the expenditure side is not prudently managed. We are also concerned with reports of high level of extravagance demonstrated by Government in different forms. While preaching about austerity, much travel, large entourages, free rolling expenditure still persist. We also find the purchase of top of the range vehicles for the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary very inappropriate. This uncontrolled spending is done at the expense of the many poor people.
Similarly, we are concerned that whilst there is less funding for critical service delivery in many Government ministries, there is a lot of spending for less important issues. There is no justification for organizing banquets from state coffers celebrating the passing of national budgets. Such insensitive signals in the face of growing poverty cause a lot of frustrations and pain. We wish to remind the Government and all Malawians the importance of spending within our means.
“God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone” (CSDC, 171). Time has come that the cry of the poor people of this country should become our own, and together we should break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism (Misericordiae Vultus, 15).
2.6. Unrealistic macroeconomic growth indicators
We are deeply concerned that the Government presents to Malawians macroeconomic growth indicators which do not reflect the reality on the ground. While the Government continues to assure the nation that the economy is under control, the situation has turned to be very bitter for many Malawians. It is our considered view that an economy can be said to be performing only and if it leads to prosperity and dignified lives for the majority Malawians. The economy must serve the people and not the other way around. The success of any economy should not just be measured through the so-called macroeconomic growth indicators but the positive effects on the livelihoods of people. This is a true benchmark of any successful economy. We, therefore, appeal to the Government to be honest and truthful when presenting the economic situation so that together we can find solutions. The adopted macroeconomic policies must protect human life, defend human rights and advance the well-being of all.
2.7. No to an economy of exclusion
In our society marred by deepening divisions between the rich and the poor, we recall the story of the Last Judgement (Mt 25:31-46) which instructs us to put the needs of the poor and the vulnerable first. In the present Malawi, many people still live in conditions which are hardly compatible with their dignity as sons and daughters of God. Their life is a continuous manifestation of the theory of the survival of the fittest. However, it is shocking that a minority enjoys the fruits of development and can afford to live in luxury and wealth (Living our Faith, p. 2). Ironically, these are also the same people who can make decisions and policies which can either uplift the majority poor or further depress their economic prospects.
Faced by this great act of injustice, we have a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to infrastructures and basic services. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis challenges us all to say No to an economy of exclusion (53-54), No to the new idolatry of money (55-56), No to a financial system that rules than serves (57-58) and No to the inequality which spawns violence (50-60). In any financial reform, the basic rule should be creating a system that serves the poor, where the rich help, respect and promote the poor and not vice versa ( cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 58).
The success of an economy should be measured through the narrowing of the gap between the rich and the poor. We have said before that “honesty, righteousness, respect, equal opportunity for all: these must be the qualities which guide our nation as it grows and develops into the future” (Living our Faith, p. 3). We wish to reiterate that in our society characterized by growing prosperity for some and pervasive poverty for others, the basic moral test remains how our most vulnerable members are faring.
2.8. Contradictions and inconsistencies
From the recent past, we are concerned with the trend which is almost taking shape of the Government making media statements which are withdrawn immediately after. Such decisions have the potential of making people to lose trust and confidence in their own Government. In an instance where the Government stand or policy on certain issues remains obscure, people tend to wonder if at all the Government has any policy, agenda to follow or even sense of direction. A lot of examples can be cited but in the recent past most people have raised concern on the employment of doctors and nurses and the tabling of Access to Information Bill (AIB). We appeal the Government to demonstrate that it is in control of the situation and offer the much needed sense of direction.
2.9. Low education standards
We have pointed out many times that education standards continue to go down in public schools (primary, secondary and tertiary). Lack of or overcrowded classrooms, lack of teaching materials, shortage of teachers and deteriorating infrastructures – dilapidated buildings, near-collapsed libraries and ill-equipped laboratories, among others are the many signs of a malfunctioning education system. We wish to underline that no country can achieve any meaningful development without investment in education.
In view of this, we are concerned about the possible impact of the abolition of Standard 8 and Junior Certificate examinations. We wish there were wider discussions and consultations before such a decision was made. This could dispel fears people have that the Government only wanted to do away with Standard 8 and Junior Certificate exams for economic expediency and not raising the standards of education. Again, while appreciating the support the Government renders to the Church-owned schools (primary and secondary), we appeal to the Government to do more by supporting infrastructural development in secondary schools if indeed our youth are “to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (CSDC, 164).
2.10. Persistent hunger
In recent years our country has experienced persistent hunger due to either devastating floods that wash away fields or droughts in some areas. The Government has always acted swiftly with an emergency response to flood victims. As a short-term measure we applaud all organizations and institutions that compliment Government’s efforts to make sure that nobody dies of hunger. We are also happy to learn that the Government has launched an insurance plan against possible floods and damage.
However, we are very concerned about the shortage of maize in the country. Because of that, more than 2.8 million Malawians now face hunger, indignity and death without much hope. People are spending more time waiting on ques to buy maize at ADMARC markets, a fact which makes them less productive in their fields or work places. This might be a recipe for another food shortage in the coming months.
We are also worried by the reports of women with children sleeping at ADMARC markets with the hope of buying maize the following day. We find this very dehumanizing and unacceptable. Besides maize shortage, there are reports of corruption where private traders connive with some ADMARC officials to purchase maize in large quantities and thereafter sell it at exorbitant prices. It is very inhuman to enrich oneself at the expense of the suffering poor Malawians. Furthermore, what we find most depressing are utterances of assurance of the availability of maize which are not supported by the situation on the ground.
In the prevailing circumstances, we appeal to Government agencies such as ADMARC to place the available maize in strategic markets. The right to food is every human person’s right. In times like these, we are tempted to turn inward, becoming indifferent and sometimes isolationist in face of our responsibility towards the needy. We appeal to all Catholics and people of good will to show solidarity with those in need. We are called to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers (Gen 4:9). As St. John Paul II said, this is “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38).
All the measures outlined above are but short-term plans. Long-term measures must be put in place to transform Malawi into a food secure nation. It is our considered view that Malawi is blessed with enough natural resources which if properly utilized the problem of persistent hunger will be an issue of the past. The good waters and plenty of fertile land lying idle are assets either underutilized or not used at all. We do not need to remind our Leadership and the general citizenly that Malawi is a country that largely depends on Agriculture. Let us, therefore, heed the Apostle’s exhortation: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3: 10).
On Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (FISP) we appeal to the Government to reform it or develop an exit strategy. Whatever reforms the Government decides to undertake, they must promote the interests of poor people. To become a hunger free nation, it is high time the Government seriously considered investment in large scale commercialized irrigation farming infrastructure. This will create an opportunity for many Malawians to grow crops at least twice a year. This we believe is the only way of making food readily accessible and cheap.
In the same vein, we are concerned about the conflicting reports regarding the whereabouts of the farm tractors and corn-Sheller machines which the Government purchased to improve agricultural production. We, therefore, call upon the Government to investigate this matter. We believe that it will be an act of injustice to subject poor Malawians to the repayment of the loan yet they have not benefitted from the tractors and corn-Sheller machines.
Finally, we challenge our experts in the fields of agriculture and irrigation to design and promote policies and programmes that can make our country a hunger free nation. We want to point out that Government’s every policy and action should be measured on the basis of whether it promotes human life, enhances human dignity, particularly for the poor and the vulnerable. That will be a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to opt for the poor and the vulnerable (Mt 25:31-46).
2.11. Call for non-selective justice and mercy for all
The effects of the infamous plunder of State resources popularly known as Cashgate are still being felt everywhere in the lives of Malawians. Many sectors such as health and education are currently struggling. Every Malawian expects the State to investigate the matter and prosecute if there is enough evidence. The Government has a legal mandate to investigate and prosecute cases. The general public expects that the Government should treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves considering the serious damage and untold suffering it has brought on many poor Malawians.
Up to this point, it is encouraging to note that Cashgate cases are being pursued in courts and that suspects are being tried fairly and sentences provided within the laws of the country. However, the general expectation from the public has been that of anguish and anger to the years the culprits are given as punishment. Many believe that the penal code needs to be reviewed to take into consideration cases like looting of public funds of this magnitude since such cases were never considered in the past.
We wish to bring to the attention of the Government that Malawians expect more than what has been done. We are worried with the Government’s tendency to prosecute some people through the media. We appeal to the Government through its relevant prosecuting agencies (Anti-Corruption Bureau – ACB, Director of Public Prosecution – DPP) to investigate and prosecute such suspects if there is enough evidence.
We also call upon the Government to create an enabling environment for the said agencies to independently investigate and prosecute cases without interference. We also call upon the prosecuting agencies to expedite investigations of corrupt practices with full-scale and not selective justice. We wish to remind the Government that in governance, how citizens perceive their Government is as equally important as reality itself.
Therefore, the Government should investigate and bring to conclusion the K92 billion and K577 billion audit queries. We believe that national interests should come first before any individual gain or political expedience. All criminals should be arrested and be brought to justice because “mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21).
2.12. Underutilized human resources: Doctors, nurses and teachers
In keeping with the laws of justice and equity, “the Government is required to show no less energy and efficiency in the matter of providing opportunities for suitable employment, graded to the capacity of the workers” (Pacem in Terris, 64). While acknowledging that the Government alone is not capable of employing everybody, it is wasteful to invest a lot of money and resources in the training of doctors, nurses and teachers yet they cannot be absorbed into the system characterized by acute shortage of doctors, nurses and teachers.
This could be defined as Government sponsored brain-drain where very qualified doctors, nurses and teachers have to fight unemployment elsewhere and not in their own country. Consequently, this trend deprives many poor Malawians best service delivery system from those who can offer expert services.
2.13. National insecurity
The nation is currently gripped with saddening experiences of sustained cases of insecurity. Individual lives, investors’ and community lives, among many, are insecure as they go about doing their everyday business. What is more worrisome, in some instances, is that some police officers, who are supposed to be law enforcers, have joined hands with criminals terrorizing our society in an unprecedented manner.
Furthermore, we condemn continued instances of communities taking laws into their own hands by torching and killing suspects due to perceived non responsiveness of our security and justice systems. We are worried that in the long run, this menace will chase and scare away prospective foreign investors whilst the Government has been embarking on a serious drive to attract the much needed investors, a positive initiative for our country.
We are also deeply disturbed by the reports of the killing of persons with albinism. We wish to affirm that people with albinism are human beings and their dignity must be respected and protected by all.
Pope Leo XIII noted that “it is to the interest of the community, as well as of the individual, that peace and good order be maintained” (Rerum Novarum, 36). We, therefore, appeal to all citizens and people of good will to collaborate with and support the Government’s efforts to make this country a peaceful and secure nation.
2.14. Regionalism and tribalism
While we have made important strides as a country to build ourselves as a democratic nation, we are worried that certain trends or forces have the potential of dividing us. Elements of regionalism and tribalism are slowly taking root in our society today. These manifest themselves in various forms especially through social, political and economic exclusion and inequalities between regions and tribes. Federalism was one of such manifestations. We remind all the people of Malawi that the founding fathers and mothers of this nation invested a lot of efforts and energy to ensure that Malawians see and treat each other as brothers and sisters. “Unity” is the cornerstone on which this nation is built.
This reflects the will of our Creator that we live in mutual respect and oneness. We are called to be proud of our tribal or ethnic roots and love one another as God’s children. No tribe is more valuable or important than the other. Tribalism, regionalism and divisions whether economic or social are contrary to the call and truth of mankind (cf. Living our Faith, p. 2-3). We are one human family, regardless of our regional, tribal, economic, political, religious and ideological differences. As citizens, we have the responsibility to use words and actions that unite and heal, and those that promote peaceful coexistence (cf. Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 14).
As Pastors, we appeal to all citizens of this country to put Malawi first, before any tribal or regional interests. We further appeal to all Catholics and people of goodwill to celebrate our common birth and destiny in mutual respect, acceptance, justice and love with those who do not share our faith and values. Let’s take heed of the Apostle’s words, “strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace, one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).
Finally, we appeal to the Government to develop policies and programmes that ensure that all sections of the society are included. We also appeal to all Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, Traditional Authorities and the Media fraternity to desist from making statements that instigate or promote hatred among peace-loving Malawians. Let the media take great care to relay the truth and not promote divisions. Many Malawians depend on the media for news, entertainment and developmental programmes. Therefore, use of divisive, abusive and violent language is not acceptable in a democracy which encourages divergent views and opinions. Let the Gospel values, the Church teaching and Media Ethics guide our media when deciding what to present to Malawians through their various media outlets (cf. Strengthen the Vision of our Destiny, p. 16).
2.15. Continued tensions and conflicts in local governance systems and structures
We were happy that on May 20th 2014, we finally ushered in councilors to effectively make functional our local governance structures in Malawi. Sadly, we have noted mounting tensions, suspicions, mistrusts and conflicts among key players in local Government. We believe, if unattended to, the true meaning and relevancy of local Government will be watered down and that in turn development and the ordinary citizens are the greatest losers. As such, we encourage Councilors, Members of Parliament, Council secretariat officials and traditional leaders to learn to work together whilst respecting their separate mandates and roles but also by recognizing their complementarities.
We call upon all concerned parties to be guided by the principle of subsidiarity: “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do” (CSDC, 186). It therefore, serves to compel groups to take responsibility for their own well-being while at the same time limiting larger bodies, like the Government, from undue interference.
2.16. Transformative leadership
For a long time Malawi has been crying for transformative leadership across all structures. The assumption is that Malawi needs such type of leadership if it has to be transformed economically, politically and socially creating enabling better living conditions for all. God recommends leadership that is visionary, transformative, empowering, caring, serving, protective, people-centered and obedient to Him (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 10-11). To be transformative, “a leader should be ready to make things new, bringing about changes with a positive difference not just for the sake of change” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 15). Among others, a transformative leader has the following qualities: person of vision, a good steward, exemplary, respect for the Constitution and Rule of Law, accountable, democratic and God-fearing (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 14-15).
It is our view that only transformative leadership is capable of putting up a very efficient civil service that brings about effective service delivery in all spheres of life. For the sake of their people, such leaders discard old ways of governing and doing politics which are probably wasteful. They are leaders who match words with actions. Good leaders must be able to set the tone – “setting goals and objectives that are specific, achievable, and measurable reflecting people’s aspirations, hopes and dreams” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 14).
We, therefore, appeal to the Government, Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, Faith-Based Organizations, Religious Bodies and Traditional Authorities to seriously reflect on and embrace within their structures transformative leadership qualities (cf. Choosing our Leaders in the forthcoming elections, p. 3-6; Taking Responsibility for our future: Together towards the 2009 Elections, p. 7-8; Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 15). Leaders across all structures should be honest, trustworthy, fair, and truthful, with a good reputation and integrity.
We, the Catholics Bishops, believe that these are the type of leaders who can inspire in the general citizenly active participation and a spirit of patriotism. In view of this, we support the current Leadership’s call to the spirit of hard work, integrity and patriotism. Countries which have turned around from being failed to thriving states have largely done so through these qualities. We shall therefore, continue to preach to all Malawians, as we have done before, that “active participation in the building up of the nation is the responsibility of every citizen” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 11).
As Malawians, we need to rediscover the spirit of patriotism and actively take part in shaping and implementing the national development agenda. Nobody can develop Malawi except Malawians. This process demands of us integrity, patriotism and hard work. The rampart plundering of the country’s resources in the name of Cashgate and the growing trends of corruption reflect badly on our love for the Motherland.
In this Year of Mercy, a special call to transformation and repentance goes to those who either perpetrate or participate in corruption. As Pope Francis says, “Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor” (Misericordiae Vultus, 19). The Holy Year of Mercy is the opportune moment for each one of us to change and transform our lives. In front of the damage our country has already suffered due to serious crimes such as corruption, it is time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 19).
2.17. Mature and constructive opposition
More than two decades of plural politics, we still note that the role of the Opposition parties seems to be limited to Parliamentary sessions. Through parliamentary debates, Parliamentary committees, Political parties and individual MPs continue to provide an oversight role to the Executive. However, we feel that there is room for improvement. Firstly, we expect the Opposition to work with the Government in finding solutions to problems affecting our nation especially the hunger crisis. We call upon the Opposition as the Government in waiting to offer alternative solutions to the current challenges facing this country. It is in this way, that the Opposition demonstrates that it cares and feels the pain of citizenry. In difficult times like these, such a role gains more importance than usual.
Secondly, we expect the Opposition to do social audits and provide informed alternative policy proposals than the usual political rhetoric that only pleases the emotions of citizens and yet does not bring about a radical change of direction of things. In order to develop, Malawi needs the Opposition that critically scrutinizes Government policies and strategies on the national development agenda. Ordinary Malawians expect their elected representatives, in parliament to have mature and meaningful deliberations and not mere political party publicity stunts.
Thirdly, we expect the Opposition to inculcate within its rank and file intra-party democracy. It is our duty to remind all leaders that “genuine democratic leaders will consult and listen to others, will appropriately delegate, share power, make corporate decisions and give credit where it belongs” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 15). It is our conviction that it is within the political party that democracy starts; it is also here that it starts to fail! Intra-party politics is capable of making our democracy grow and mature.
We, therefore, appeal to all the Opposition parties faced with infighting and factional struggles to demonstrate to Malawians that they are capable of resolving their differences in a mature way. Running the country is the responsibility of all; the party in power, the Opposition parties and the general citizenry.
2.18. Care for the environment
As a nation conflicted by environmental issues, we wish to make an appeal to all citizens of this country to make deliberate efforts to care for the God-given natural resources. The devastating floods and persistent droughts should act as a reminder that something has gone wrong in our relationship with nature. The Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the environment is not just an activity for the National Tree Planting Day; it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith relationship in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
We make a strong appeal to the Government for a proper utilization of our forests in the country and examine how the harvests of these forests have benefited Malawians.
We call upon all Catholic communities and institutions of higher learning to discuss, digest and disseminate the message of Holy Father, Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ on the care of our common home. We find the message of the encyclical pertinent to our context.
We, the Catholic Bishops, as Pastors of souls acknowledge the many challenges the poor people are facing in this country. We call upon the Government to show leadership in steering the nation to hard working, self-reliance and diversification of production. In the present circumstances, the Government should review some of its policies and practices to ensure a change of mindset and attitudes so as to ensure national and household food security, social security, protection of the environment through promotion of alternative sources of energy and many other areas.
We also call upon all Malawians of goodwill to the unity of purpose by working together to implement the national agenda. In order to develop, Malawi needs people of integrity, sense of direction and patriotism. In this process, the Government must lead by example by creating an enabling environment so that all Malawians, regardless of their political affiliations, can unite and deliver that national agenda.
We call upon all Catholics and people of goodwill to seriously reflect on these moral principles and values we have presented. The Scriptures say, “Without a vision the people perish” (Proverb 29:18). As Catholics we have an inspiring vision in our social teaching. In a country that hungers for a sense of meaning and moral direction, Catholic Social Teaching should offer us ethical criteria for action. These principles should therefore, be considered as a central part of our identity, because we have been called to be the salt and the light of the earth (Mt 5: 13-16).
As St. Paul says, “neither death nor hunger will separate us from the love of Christ,” it is our deep conviction that our love and trust in God is the deepest and most invincible motive for our trust in Christian hope. Even if our entire existence is surrounded by threats of hunger, poverty, injustices, pandemics, climate change, etc. nothing will ever separate us from the love of Christ, who in His mercy gave Himself fully for us.
We now turn to Mary, the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness! May she never tire of turning her merciful eyes upon us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus (Misericordia Vultus, 24).Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :