Recently, Zambia’s revered Catholic cleric, Father Frank Bwalya, who is the most fervent critic of the country’s President Rupiah Bwezani Banda appeared before a court in Lusaka to answer charges of inciting people to rise against the country’s leadership, claiming it’s has failed the people.
Fr. Bwalya who is said to be the architect of what is known as ‘Red Card Campaign’ against the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) led government of President Rupiah Banda, claiming that democratic values were being eroded under the watch of Banda’s leadership and that his administration had failed to deliver its promises to live up to the expectations of the people in the copper-rich nation. It was for this reason that, Bwalya told the of 15th March, 2010 that the people in Zambia were ‘tired of waiting to remove the current administration during the elections coming next year’.
As Banda was giving an account of life under President Rupiah Banda, honestly, I discovered that we are in a similar situation here at home. Much of what he had said was not different from what we are experiencing in Malawi at the moment, only that it is part of our tradition as Malawians to suffer in silence.
Much as we have enough food, most of us, to eat the year round, peace of mind has eluded us. Most Malawians are disillusioned, frustrated and confused to the extent that they are silently calling for early elections hoping things would change, should another government step in.
There are clear signs of a democratic culture which is being eroded. Democratic values are being flouted. In short, dictatorship is slowly taking root in the country.
Without sounding biased, Malawians were quite free between 1994 -2004, but from 2005 onwards, there has been a retrogression of various freedoms we had embraced following the dawn of the new political order in 1993.
What is quite worrying therefore in all these is the silence of our religious leaders. They seem to have lost their voice and abrogated their moral obligation. Religious leaders are called by God to side with the oppressed, the downtrodden, the voiceless and those who are crying out for justice, in every situation. If they fall short of meeting this God-given obligation, then they should question their integrity and calling.
The Zambian cleric should be a wake-up call to the clergy in Malawi that their silence has done much harm to this country. Malawi just like Zambia needs a lot of Fr. Bwalya’s. It is at this time that we need the voice of our religious leaders. Much as we commend the leadership of Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP for its efforts to reverse the current trends, we ask the whereabouts of other denominations.
With the country’s opposition on a death bed, some NGO leaders getting arrested and journalists living in perpetual fear, Malawians are looking up to the clergy to speak out and act. But where are they?
Where is Rev. Daniel Gunya? Where are the Church and Society Programmes of Blantyre and Livingstonia Synods of the CCAP? Where is Muslim Association of Malawi? Where is the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace? What has happened to the age of the Pastoral Letters? What befell on the Njamba Freedom Park prayers? Does this silence mean an endorsement of the current situation in our country?
Wherever our religious leaders are, let them come out and reverse the current trends in our nation. Religious leaders should not align themselves with political parties. They should not enter into agreements to work for political parties in return for favours. The agenda should be to defeat evil and not to side with it.
Wherever they are, let our religious leaders know that we are desperately in need of their action against the current developments in our nation. Malawi is starring in the face of a storm. And unless, other clerics join the likes of Rev Mezuwa Banda and Rev Maurice Munthali in their spirited fight to rid the nation of the on-going ills, the cost would be quite huge for our country.
Malawi needs reformers and fearless critics of the likes of Fr. Bwalya to bring back the lost glory of a democratic nation, through action oriented campaigns similar to the Zambia’s ‘Red Card’, otherwise we are on the brink of total collapse. Our religious leaders therefore must leave the pulpit and all the comfort zones, where they are and take to the streets to liberate the voiceless and helpless Malawians once again.
*The writer is a Malawian journalist and media consultant