Tribute to Malawi’s freedom fighter Fr O’Malley and poem from BJ Mpinganjira

Fr. Patrick O’Malley, a Catholic priest who played a significant role in the development of multiparty democracy in Malawi died 19 March 2017 in Ireland and he was mourned by the Malawian community led by the Malawi High Commissioner to UK, Kenna Mphonda  who had just been to see him two weeks earlier before he was taken to the hospital where he passed on.

The final resting place for Fr O’malley
Malawians in Dublin at the funeral of Fr O’malley

First president of Malawi’s multi-party democracy Bakili Muluzi who has been talking to Father O’Malley throughout his sickness and was planning to visit him in April when he is coming to a wedding in Scotland, contributed funds to hire a 54 seater bus which transported Malawians to the funeral ceremony and a wreath which was laid on his behalf by  lawyer Happiness  ‘Happy Chi’ Mwase for association of Malawians in Ireland.

Prof Jack Mapanje a great Malawian poet also attended the funeral ceremony.

O’Malley, an Irish Catholic humanitarian priest, who served in Malawi during his active priesthood for a long time was very instrumental in the fight against one party dictatorship and  was appointed Malawi’s honorary consular of Malawi in Ireland in the early 2000 by Muluzi.

In 1992, when Malawians demonstrated against the Malawi Congress Party under the iron rule of late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s regime for the ill-treatment of the Catholic Bishops and for the arrest of the militant freedom fighter the late  Chakufwa Chihana after they had released a scathing but truthful ‘Pastoral Letter’ condemning the government’s poor human rights record, Father O’Malley who was among activists fueling the wind of change in Malawi was ordered to leave the country within 24 hours by authorities because of what he said to students in one of his sermons.

According to Mwale, at the funeral, a poem written by politican James Brown Mpinganjira in paying tribute for the priest was read.

Here is the poem in full:

An ode to a Great Priest and Friend

Death only has meaning if we accept it as transition to the Promised Land.

And that land was promised only to those who have run their race according to the will of our Creator.

And I am persuaded that Pat ran his race well. As a soldier of Heaven – a Gospel Warrior – Pat was always willing and ready to travel to distant lands, moving from place to place, to teach and stand up for Christ Jesus, to stand up for Christian values.

He believed in total freedom for every human being. And that is what brought Pat and I together with Jack Mapanje.

Our relationship was guided by zeal for the freedoms of other people. That is why he found himself in the trenches fighting against the one party dictatorship in Malawi.

I wish I was there personally to praise him for the selfless role he played in changing Malawi.

I wish I was there to talk about the many long hours we spent drafting, changing, writing anonymous letters which were labelled subversive by the government

I wish I was there to talk about how we went around distributing these subversive letters together with David Kerr.

I wish I was there to talk about how we almost lost each other one night as we literally ran into different directions at the sight of members of the infamous Malawi young pioneers.

I wish I was there to talk about the night he advised me to hide in a tree while he walked on “majestically” in his priestly robes.

I wish I was there to celebrate Pat for the critical role he played, quietly, in changing the politics of Malawi.

There are many things we did together, often times with David Kerr, where he expressly charged me to ensure that his role remained secret for fear expressly charge me to ensure that his role remained secret. He took special precautions and was always at pains to ensure that his activities did not risk the lives and freedoms of other Catholic priests.

To cut a very long story very short, democracy in Malawi has lost a seasoned civilised guerrilla fighter willing to risk his life and all for the freedom of a people who were not his own biologically.

Personal freedoms in Malawi have lost a street fighter who was willing to move  from street to street, risking his own life, fighting for the freedoms of all, even those who knew not what freedom was.

The youth in Malawi have lost a role model, who was willing to move from one college campus to another, risking his life, to mobilise the youth to fight for a better Malawi.

I have lost a friend and a confidante. He trusted me with life. I trusted him with mine. How I wish I was here in person, then I would expound on this with numerous examples, for the world to appreciate this man.

The Irish have lost an Ambassador Extraordinaire who continued with the Irish dream away from Ireland.

Fare thee well Pat, until we meet again, where there are no seditious letters to author and distribute and where there are no Malawi youth leaguers to duck and dodge.

Adios Amigo!

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