Today, the waves of joy and the flow of love and affection have fully engulfed the popularly known as ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ – our mother Malawi. Another 14 February has just dawned and as the sun rises, so rises in our hearts the joy of love with various uncounted external manifestations.
Consequently, it is not a surprise to see a unique wave of life on this day. It is not a shock to encounter an affectionate atmosphere from all walks of life in the Warm Heart of Africa. Indeed, it is not an astonishment to match along with an environment of huge smiles and brilliance on the face of each Malawian. No one seems prepared to leave things to chance and let this day pass-by unaware.
Anyone walking along the streets (both in towns and villages), parks and beaches is bound to encounter the RED Color that has taken a lead on this day. Any dress in RED seems to best fit each available space on this day. Indeed almost everyone is happy to be associated with this RED in great honour of this day. Right now as you read this piece, many people are exchanging cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special ‘Valentine’, primarily to express affection. Surely, most cards exchanged on this day, ‘Valentine Cards’, have a special design. Apart from the many red flowers engulfing the cards, a big red heart takes a centre stage, symbolising love and deep affection.
Quite a massive number of academic sources indicate that this day of Romance, we call Valentine’s Day, is named after a Christian martyr and dates back to 3rdCentury but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia. In fact, according to many authors, this day was originally a festival for shepherds aimed primarily to secure fertility for fields, the flocks and shepherds themselves. Further information states that the festival gradually became associated with the feast day (Feb 14) of two Roman Martyrs, both named St. Valentine who lived in 3rdCentury, but about whom nothing specific is known. Indeed, St. Valentine has traditionally been regarded as patron saint for lovers.
What is clear is the fact that this day comes and goes! It was there last year, it is here today and it will be there next year and so on! It’s high time we seriously paused and considered following three important questions: How unique and special is this 14th February 2007 to my life in this Warm heart of Africa? How meaningful is this day to me as a parent or a child in the family? How unique is this day to me as a citizen (whether a leader or a subject) in this warm heart of Africa?
The joy of this years’ unique Valentine Day in the warm heart of Africa ought to begin in the family. The family, as a privileged community and original cell of social life, is a place where from childhood we all learn moral values, begin to honour God and make good use of freedom. This day will not be unique unless the family members learn to care and bear responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped and the poor.
On the part of children, the day would be made unique particularly through respect shown to their parents. Respect is a sign of gratitude to the parents who brought them into the world and enable them to grow in stature, wisdom and grace. One way of manifesting this respect is to be docile and obedient. In obedience to their parents, children please God (Ephesians 6:1). Truly, a wise child hears their father’s instruction and ready to listen to rebuke (Proverbs 13:1). In the words of Sirach, ‘whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother (3:2-6.)
On the part of parents, this valentine will be unique if they take into consideration their duty to create a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By example of their life, parents ought to bring children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Fulfilment of this responsibility and privilege of evangelizing and educating children in the faith will bring forth love and joy, fruits that are associated with any unique Valentine’s Day.
The third question we paused above in our effort to make this day unique runs: How unique is this day to me as a citizen (whether a leader or a subject) in this warm heart of Africa? We can rephrase this question as follows: As a citizen (whether a leader or a subject) in this Warm Heart of Africa, how can I make this day unique?
Malawi is a beautiful country nicknamed The Warm Heart of Africa. She has claimed to be ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ for decades now, a title that she well and truly continues to deserve for the nature of its welcoming people. An overwhelming memory for those who travel to Malawi for a variety of reasons is the people they have met. Malawians greet all visitors with a beaming smile, and with a genuine, disarming warmth. They will go out of their way to be friendly and helpful to anyone who has done them the honour of visiting their country.
In fact it’s not a surprise that Malawi is listed as the ‘Happiest’ Country in Africa. Among important features that well summarize who Malawians are include: love, joy, happiness, peace, tranquility, harmony. Indeed, the People of Malawi recognize the sanctity and unity of all mankind, seek the welfare of all, seek national harmony and peaceful international relations and desire to create national order.
These phrases form the base and define who we are, what we are and what we want to achieve the common good. Coming to terms with such an atmosphere in the Warm Heart of Africa, we can repeat the milestone question asked above: As a citizen (whether a leader or a subject) in this Warm Heart of Africa, how can I make this day unique?
Those in positions of leadership have an important mission in service of the common good. The authority has an important task to cultivate all the values necessary for the common good. Those who exercise authority should do so as a service always recalling the words of Jesus: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”(Mt. 20:26, MK10:43). The exercise of authority is meant to give outward expression to a just hierarchy of values in order to facilitate the exercise of freedom and responsibility by all.
Those in position of leadership should practice distributive justice wisely, taking account of the needs and contribution of each, with a view to harmony and peace. They should take care that the regulations and measures they adopt are not a source of temptation by setting personal interest against that of the community. In this way, as a citizen who is in leadership position, will contribute to making this year’s Valentine’s Day unique, special and memorable.
As citizens, subject to authority, we must collaborate and join hands with our leaders in the search for the common good. This collaboration includes the right and a duty at times to voice just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community. It is our duty to contribute along with leaders to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. Surely, as citizens we ought to live in freedom but without using this freedom as a pretext for evil (1 Peter 2:13,16). On this unique day, we have a duty to offer prayers and thanksgiving for all who exercise authority, that we all lead a quiet and peaceful life, respectful in every way.
The duty of making this day unique falls on all of us spiritual leaders as well as we take care of God’s flock entrusted in our hands. As evangelizers and agents of God’s message, this day calls us for a serious mission to announce and proclaim the gospel of peace to all in the Warm Heart of Africa. This unique day invites all the spiritual leaders, from Chitipa to Nsanje and from Nkhotakota to Mchinji, to proclaim the message of peace.
On this unique day, the slogans from the spiritual leaders must bear aspects of love and peace. In short, a powerful gospel today runs: ‘Peace to you all’ and by extension, ‘Peace and Love to all Malawi and all her citizens. This announcement of peace upon Malawi and all her citizens, is not just an announcement and inauguration of the tranquil state but must coincide with the proper state of grace and of joy.
Truly, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of peace, love and harmony is very near to us!
Finally, as we endeavor to make this day unique, we ought to continue focusing our attention on the beautiful words in our National Anthem:
O God bless our land of Malaŵi,
Keep it a land of peace.
Put down each and every enemy,
Hunger, disease, envy.
Join together all our hearts as one,
That we be free from fear.
Bless our leader, each and every one,
And Mother Malaŵi.
Our own Malaŵi, this land so fair,
Fertile and brave and free.
With its lakes, refreshing mountain air,
How greatly blest are we.
Hills and valleys, soil so rich and rare
Give us a bounty free.
Wood and forest, plains so broad and fair,
All – beauteous Malaŵi.
Freedom ever, let us all unite
To build up Malaŵi.
With our love, our zeal and loyalty,
Bringing our best to her.
In time of war, or in time of peace,
One purpose and one goal.
Men and women serving selflessly
In building Malaŵi.
- Fr. Daniel Chasowa Kamanga is a Catholic Priest belonging to the Diocese of Mzuzu in Malawi and currently a student of Canon Law at Pontificia Universitá della SANTA CROCE – Rome, Italy)