Malawi Council of Churches Write Government

Monday, August 5, 2002


The Malawi Council of Churches - a mother body of prostestant churches in the country - has issued a statement asking the ruling party United Democratic Front (UDF) and the government at large, to curb acts of violence committed against the clergy.

The statement has been read out in all protestant churches, and has also been published in independent newspapers.

The statement comes in the wake of a spate of threats and attacks on the clergy, especially between the months of April and August. Over this period, Roman catholic bishops and ministers of the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) issued several pastoral letters advising and critising the government on various areas of governance.

Among other things, the pastoral letters called on the government "...not to simply talk democracy but to practise it and re-enforce the rule of law"; to review the privatisation of state-owned companies- a restructuring programme they said has resulted in massive job losses; and above all, asking the state president Dr Bakili Muluzi to declare his position - whether he will contest for an unconstitutional third term in the year 2004 general elections or not. Many Malawians speculate that Dr Muluzi may contest for a third term. But the Malawi constitution provides that the state president may serve the position for a maximum of two consecutive (five-year) terms. And to this regard the president indicated at a political rally recently that he would declare his position when time is ripe. He did not elaborate.

Citing the threats and attacks on the clergy, the Church Council mentions for example, a recent attack on a presbyterian minister, Reverend Kingstone Kalebe. Reverend kalebe was assaulted by a group of young people soon after a national service of worship in the city of Mzuzu. They accused him of being a bad preacher who had insulted the president in his cermony. But the attackers had mistaken Kalebe for Bishop James Tengatenga of the Anglican Church. In his cermony, Bishop Tengatenga told politicians to seek God's kingdom and speak the truth. He said none would want to recreate another monster to the positions equal to God.

Tengatenga was apparently contrasting the governance of the current multiparty regime to that of an autocratic rule which was replaced in the country's first mulitparty general elections in 1994 .

However, the Malawi council Of Churches says in its statement that there was nothing wrong with Tengatenga's ceremony, adding that he ably performed the church's prophetic role.

"If (church/state) partnership means anything, then the role of each has to be appreciated. The churches are called, among many other tasks, to a prophetic ministry..." says the statement in part.

On the other hand, the Council says the attackers - whom police never tried to arrest - had been sent by some political leaders in the ruling party. And when some human rights organisations asked the police to bring the culprits to book, police spokesman Oliver Soko replied that "no one dictates to police."

Meanwhile, the Council says it will continue promoting the preaching of God's Word without fear or favour, and has pointed out that " (political) parties come and go and so also their leaders, but the church of God remains."