Influential Catholic Church has received a thumbs up from commentators and opposition for its continued stand to proclaim the truth as the bishops in Malawi issued a Pastoral Letter on Sunday as most truthful and a voice of reason which reflects the public discontent.
The pastoral letter read out in all Catholic churches nationwide on Sunday—the fifth Sunday of Easter in the Catholic calendar— titled ‘Need for a New Era in Malawi’, among other issues, the bishops say they are commissioned to preach the Gospel “whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Timothy 4:2), noting that there is something wrong in our society that needs to be put right.
“We are of the opinion that Malawi, as a nation, needs a change of direction if we are to reverse the situation.
“We mean a total change in the way of doing things other than ‘business as usual,” the bishops say.
Opposition political parties represented in Parliament, notably Malawi Congress Party (MCP), United Democratic Front (UDF) and People’s Party (PP), described the letter as a timely guidance to Malawians ahead of next year’s elections.
“The letter from the bishops is timely, adequate, relevant and addresses things that this country is going through,” said MCP deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka.
UDF spokesman Ken Ndanga urged the citizenry to reflect on the letter which he noted tackled more or less the same issues contained in UDF’s Agenda for Change campaign mounted by Atupele Muluzi, the party leader, during the 2014 elections.
PP deputy spokesman Ackson Kalaile said the Catholic bishops have spoken on behalf of Malawians.
In an interview with Nyasa Times, Geneva-based social-economiccommentator Stanley Kenani, said there was lack of solid national leadership.
He said: “The pastoral letter reminds us that unless we make a change of direction, we are doomed. As a nation, we need to take the message in the pastoral letter seriously. We cannot continue like this. We need to put in power leaders who truly want to serve the people and to transform our country, not thieves like the ones we have now.”
Added Kenani: “We’ve thieves leading us,” said Kenani.
Human rights activist and governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali noted that the letter echoes the issues raised in the civil society’s 10-point demand petition to government like the dwindling public service delivery, nepotism, lack of transformational leadership and others.
“The Pastoral letter advises the citizens to look for honesty, transformational leadership, selflessness, servant leadership, decisive leadership, respects of the law, willingness to step down, above tribal/regional/ political interests; and God fearing as the qualities the citizens should look for in potential leaders,” Munthali noted.
He told Nyasa Times that the title of the Pastoral Letter “A call for a new era in Malawi” is the one that carries the ultimate message which Malawians need to hear and reflect on – a prophetic message which is in direct response to the current dwindling state of governance characterised by corruption, executive arrogance, nepotism and impunity.
“While the Pastoral letter seems to generalise the problems as being a product of lack of transformational and servant leadership in Malawi as traced to 1994, the timing of issuing the letter – which comes immediately after the CSO’s nationwide demonstrations and Mutharika’s arrival from UK– and the section on the qualities of the leaders Malawians should vote for in 2019 seem to suggest that the letter is a clear manifestation of the church’s frustration with the current corrupt regime.”
Malawians, based both in the country and in the diaspora, say that the bishops spoke the minds of all Malawians.
One of them, Vincent Matupi, a development consultant and entrepreneur, said the bishops—from time immemorial—have been instrumental in shaping previous regimes.
He said the pastoral letter, which among others ridicules executive arrogance, is a pointer that those governing the country should start becoming serious.
“The church is there to guide and this should not be taken as criticism but rather a heads up on what needs to change. [For example], when one buys a car you don’t expect it to fix itself. Parts and etcetera need to make the car work,” said Matupi.
And, Mathews Nyirenda, a Malawian based in Nottingham said: “I think the issues are pertinent and resonate with what I would say most Malawians think. It is well measured and the interesting thing is that unlike what people expect most of the times and the perception that it usually targets certain individuals, the letter actually does seem to point at the fact that we are in this mess as a collective and we have all contributed to it in one way or another and therefore we all should play our rightful roles to move the country in the right direction for our sake and for the sake of future generations.
“It gives all Malawians an opportunity to reflect and see how they can individually and as a collective entity change things for the better. In my opinion both the leadership, at various levels and those that follow will be key in making Malawi a better place and making our democracy meaningful.”
Lyson Sibande, an activist, said: “The letter shows that the ECM is still very aware of its significant influence in setting the political agenda for our country as they have always done since the advent of democracy. In this document, the real issue that the ECM is communicating is more in the title of the letter than in the content.
“The title calls for a new era in Malawi which in my understanding endorses what most Malawians and the youthful population have been demanding that now is the era to have a youthful president. And this agenda is made clear when we understand chapter 3 within the context of what is happening now, especially on the point where the ECM invites Malawians to choose a president who does not refuse to step aside.”
The bishops ask Malawians to take stock of whether the current system of government has over the years delivered on its promise to uplift the lives of all the citizens or whether the country paid lip-service to democracy by allowing a few people to exercise power and authority and enjoy the wealth of this country at the expense of the vast majority.
“We must never pretend that all is well,” the bishops advise.
They go on to remind Malawians that the period before multiparty democracy was a period of darkness and gloom as highlighted in their 1992 Pastoral Letter, Living Our Faith.
Catholic bishops in Malawi have been instrumental in shaping the national agenda. In 1993, their letter ‘Living our Faith’ was an ignition to Malawi getting out of one party dictatorship of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda and MCP to democracy when Bakili Muluzi and UDF were the first to govern from 1994 to 2004.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :