ECM PASTORAL LETTER-ENGLISH

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MERCY OF GOD AS A PATH OF HOPE
On Current Socio-Political and Economic Issues in Malawi
Pastoral Statement 13th March 2016
Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM)
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Pastoral Statement of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi
To all Catholics and people of good will in Malawi
We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy.
God is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). He revealed Himself to Moses as “a God merciful and
gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). In
this “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), by his words, actions, and entire person, Jesus of
Nazareth reveals the mercy of God, our Father (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 1).
The wellspring of the Christian joy, serenity, and peace is mercy. First, because it is
the supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Second, because it is the
fundamental law that dwells in our hearts when we look sincerely into the eyes of our
brothers and sisters on the path of life. Finally, it is also the bridge that connects us
with God, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness
and numerous challenges (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 2). Our joys and hopes, our
troubles and sorrows, are not indifferent to God. He realizes the difficulties which we
experience daily. Through His Mercy, the Lord never abandons us. He feels
responsible for each one of us; He desires our wellbeing and He wants to see us
happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which our Christian merciful love must
also travel! (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 9).
Preamble
We, the Catholic Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, guided by Pope
Francis’ Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus
which highlights God’s mercy particularly to those undergoing suffering and difficult
times believe that this is the opportune time for us to pass on a message that offers
hope, challenges our way of life and calls us to reconciliation with God, fellow human
beings and the entire creation (cf. Misericordiae Vultus). The Jubilee of Mercy offers
us a path of hope, reconstruction and new beginning guided by God’s mercy and
trusting that God is the Father who never forsakes us (Pope Francis’ Homily, at Casa
Santa Marta, 14th December 2015).
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How many uncertain and painful situations are there in our society today? Few people
can be ignorant of the scandalous contrast which exists between those in affluence
and the many poor people in both our urban and rural settings. More so, we believe
that such poverty is a direct consequence of wrong economic choices made by those
in power. This is not, of course, the only social injustice which calls for our moral
concern; elements of tribalism/regionalism, lack of fiscal discipline, dwindling
standards of education, theft of government money, misplaced priorities, overall
shrinking of public service delivery, rising cost of living and persistent hunger are some
of the challenges we must address. Concern about these and many more has led us
to a more and more questioning attitude on whether as a country we have clues on
how to transform the status quo for the better. One thing is crystal clear; we have lost
direction in dealing with these critical issues.
As your Pastors, we categorically declare that this is not the moment to resign to
despair and fatalism. In this Holy Year, it is our task to bring a word and gesture of
consolation to the poor, to proclaim liberty to those bound by new forms of slavery of
the modern society, to restore sight to those who can see no more because they are
caught up in themselves, to restore dignity to all those from whom it has been robbed
(cf. Is 61:1-2). Despite the numerous challenges we are going through as a nation, we
are called to be people of hope which is a great gift from God that allows us to see
beyond problems, pain, difficulties and our sins. It allows us to see the mercy of God
and indeed, “in hope we are saved” (Rom 8:24). Let us always remember that the
grandeur of God’s merciful action has the capacity to forgive all our iniquity, heal all
our diseases, redeem our life from the pit, crown us with steadfast love and mercy (cf.
Ps 103:3-4).
Therefore, in the same spirit of hope, we begin by acknowledging that there are some
positive developments taking place in our country which if supported and nurtured can
transform the country. We also challenge the entire nation, and those entrusted with
leadership positions to seriously consider designing policies and programmes that
reduce the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. We call upon our renowned
economists to honestly respond to the question: Can an economy and its policies opt
for the poor? We recall Pope Francis’ words of encouragement to all Catholics and
people of good will to love their country, offering their best and advancing the common
good (Pope Francis, A Good Catholic Meddles in Politics, Homily delivered in the
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Vatican, September 16, 2013). We appeal to all Catholics and people of good will to
reaffirm their role in the society of building a just and peaceful society in which respect
for the integrity of creation, the dignity of the human person, the right to life for all, the
preferential option for the poor and the marginalized, and the dignity of the family will
be upheld and respected for the common good.
1. Some positive trends
As citizens of this country, we have every reason to rejoice for the positive
developments that have happened in the recent past. We applaud all Malawians for
being aware of the need for a Government that is functional. This was clearly
demonstrated by your active participation in the 2014 tripartite elections which ushered
in a new president, members of parliament and ward councilors.
We want to applaud the Government and other Non-Governmental Organizations for
the swift emergency response to flood victims. The response was very commendable
and praiseworthy. We thank in a special way our Catholic faithful who demonstrated
the spirit of solidarity with those affected by the devastating floods through their
contributions in cash and kind. This positive response was a clear testimony that we
are called to be our brothers and sisters’ keepers (Gen 4:9). You indeed demonstrated
that “mercy is not only an action of the Father; it becomes a criterion for ascertaining
who His true children are (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 9). Mercy is a force that reawakens
us to a new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope (Miseridiae
Vultus, 10).
We follow with keen interest developments in public sector reforms the Government
has championed and continues to embark on with an effort to bring about efficient and
cost effective public service delivery. Whilst previous Governments had many principal
secretaries, the number has been reduced. The rest are either redeployed or retired.
The reforms, however, are going even into Government parastatals so that they
develop strategic plans that would be implemented to improve service delivery like in
water, electricity and many other areas. We need to point out; however, that change is
needed in the culture of politics where cronyism and patronage confuse the roles of
parastatals. Given the recent commitment of the Leadership of the country on reforms,
if followed to the letter, they might bring in much needed confidence and improved
service delivery currently lacking in most sectors. This is a positive move towards the
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right direction. The reforms have the potential to inculcate a hard working spirit,
integrity and patriotism in all Malawians in general not only the civil service.
We, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Malawi are aware of the pressure that the
Government has endured so far from foreign nations and agencies who attach their
financial support to values and practices that are contrary to our culture. We applaud
the efforts and the courage the Government has demonstrated so far to resist the
pressure to adopt such foreign values and practices i.e. homosexuality and abortion.
We wish to reaffirm that such practices are not only against our cultural values but are
also contrary to our laws and beliefs.
We are aware of the many efforts the Government is doing to make Malawi a food
secure nation through the greenbelt initiative. These efforts are indeed very
commendable. We call upon the Government and other likeminded organizations to
intensify such efforts through large scale irrigation schemes considering that Malawi is
perpetually hit by floods and dry spells. This, in our view, is the only solid response to
our perennial food crisis. Ensuring ‘right to food’ of every citizen is part of ensuring
respect for the dignity of the human person. These rights are “universal, inviolable and
inalienable” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC], 153).
2. Some areas of great concern
Having acknowledged the above positive developments, we seek to highlight our
painful realization that our society is not yet what we all desire. First, as your Pastors,
we cannot sit back and watch in the face of shrinking standards or lack of public
service delivery, increasing gap between the rich and the poor, lack of fiscal discipline
and misplaced priorities in the prevailing tough times which call for tough measures.
Second, we continue to be worried by continuous presentation of unrealistic
macroeconomic growth indicators that do not reflect reality on the ground. We are also
deeply worried by the bad performance of our economy. Thirdly, we are deeply
concerned with the shortage of maize in the country, the exorbitant prices of the same
at the parallel markets of vendors due to increased demand. Finally, we are deeply
concerned about new trends in our society that promote a culture of death instead of a
culture of life through the abortion campaign. Because of that, the family and the
institution of marriage between man and woman are under direct attack from those
campaigning for homosexual rights and homosexual unions.
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2.1. Pro-Abortion campaign
On the evils of promoting abortion and its unlawfulness, we already made our position
clear to you through our 2013 Pastoral letter titled Catholic Teaching on
Homosexuality, Abortion, Population and Birth Control. In the face of the new
campaign termed ‘safe abortion’, we are compelled to reaffirm our position on the
matter as a way of offering direction and guidance.
We reiterate our position on the right to life and dignity of every human person (CSDC,
153). In a country little by little marked by trends in the declining respect for human
life, the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the
human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Our belief in the sanctity
of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the
principles of the social teaching. Through the agents of the culture of death,
campaigning for abortion legislation, human life is under direct attack. In these
circumstances, we wish to reaffirm that every person is precious, that people are more
important than things, and that the measure of every society is whether it threatens or
enhances the life and dignity of the human person. We, therefore, appeal to our
elected representatives in Parliament to promote and defend life by voting no to such
legislation. By doing so, they will demonstrate that even the unborn child, not only the
mother, has the right to life. The test for us as believers is not simply have we ‘kept the
faith,’ but have we shared the faith.
In this Jubilee of Mercy, it is our pastoral duty to call upon all those who are
undergoing the tormenting experience of abortion to seek the mercy of God. “When
faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will
always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is
ever ready to forgive” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3).
2.2. Dignity of the family and Homosexual rights
Today the institution of marriage is under direct attack from recent campaigns on the
rights of homosexuals. Despite these new challenges to the Biblical marriage between
man and woman, we reaffirm the Catholic tradition that the Family is the central social
institution that must be protected, supported and strengthened and not undermined.
Human beings grow and achieve fulfillment in society. However, it is in that nuclear
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community of father and mother that every person acquires moral principles and
coherent values necessary for becoming a reliable citizen.
In our 2013 Pastoral letter, we presented the Catholic Church teaching on
homosexuality. Now that the issue has resurfaced, we intend to reaffirm our position.
We affirm that the homosexual condition is disordered, but not sinful in itself. We also
affirm that once a person with this orientation or indeed a person without this
orientation indulges in homosexual acts, such acts must always be judged as
objectively evil and totally unacceptable. Whatever the circumstances or reasons
behind this disordered orientation, the Church does not condemn or judge someone
because of his or her sexual orientation. In front of the homosexual orientation and
homosexual persons, the attitude of the Church is non-judgmental; yes their condition
is disordered but not sinful in itself. However, when it comes to homosexual acts or
unions, the Church does not mince words: these are objectively evil and totally
unacceptable.
From this perspective, we agree with those who have faulted the Government for
putting a moratorium on laws governing homosexual acts. This means that those guilty
of homosexual acts or unions cannot be prosecuted. The Government has bowed
down to pressure from donor community, international bodies and local human rights
campaigners. As Pastors, we find this path very unfortunate. It is an act of betrayal on
the part of those in power to sell our country to foreign practices and tendencies
contrary to the will of God because of money. In the present circumstances, we recall
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words, “truth is not determined by a majority vote”
(Light of the world: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, November 24,
2010). We call upon all Catholics and people of good will to stand up for what is
morally right today in the face of the hugely funded campaign for homosexual rights
and unions.
While we do not condone homosexual acts or unions because they are sinful,
however, we wish to condemn in strongest terms those inciting violence against
homosexuals and those guilty of homosexual acts or unions. In this Jubilee of mercy,
we recall with gratitude the words of St. John XXIII that indicate to us the path to follow
as believers: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than
taking up arms of severity” (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11). The Lord asks us not to judge
and not to condemn (cf. Lk 6:37-38). If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgement, he
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should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister. Above all, the Jubilee of
Mercy offers all sinners, including those that indulge in homosexual acts the possibility
of experiencing God’s mercy especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope
Francis says that the Holy Door of mercy should make everyone during this year
experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope (cf. Misericordiae
Vultus, 3). Therefore, merciful like the Father, is the motto of this Holy Year.
2.3. Shrinking or lack of public service delivery
The Church document entitled Gaudium et Spes describes ‘the Common Good’ as the
sum total of social conditions which enable individuals, families, organizations, etc. to
achieve their own fulfillment more fully and easily’ (GS, 26). It is lamentable that either
wrong economic choices or lack of economic prudence in Government expenditures
has led to the shrinking or lack of key public service delivery. There are continued
reports of low funding and supply of necessary resources to bring about effective
service delivery in many Government departments. As a result of low or no funding at
all, for example, many district hospitals have scaled down their operations, their
ambulance services grounded, their medical supplies drastically reduced to few
essential drugs, provision of meals to patients reduced to only one meal per day.
The deepening healthcare crisis across the country requires special attention of the
Government. It is true that we have qualified people in various ministries and
departments of our Government. But the Government bears the blame when people
delegated to execute different roles fail to perform. The sad and dehumanizing
conditions in our public hospitals are unacceptable.
We note with great concern that as a country we do not have a specialized cancer
hospital where mammograms are fixed. Many women are being denied access to
breast cancer detection equipment and computerized tomography scan. Women
requiring such services have to pay a lot of money at private diagnostic facilities. In the
present circumstances, we appeal to the Government to show leadership in
addressing challenges in sectors or ministries which are not performing. Pope Francis
invites us to open our eyes and see the misery of our society, the wounds of our
brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and heed their cry for help
(Misericordiae Vultus, 15).
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We remind the Leadership of this country that most poor Malawians depend on public
service delivery financed by the Government. Consequently, limited or lack of funding
is tantamount to denying them access to better services in education, health,
agriculture and water; among many other essential services. This hugely compromises
the right to development and a possibility of descent life for many Malawians. The
Government’s service delivery systems and policies should be measured on whether
they promote, protect and enhance human life and human dignity, especially for the
poor and the vulnerable.
2.4. Low revenue generation
We acknowledge that lack of direct budgetary support from development partners has
greatly compromised service delivery. However, this should not be an excuse for the
untold suffering Malawians continue to face in many rural and urban sectors. While we
still need the support from donors, it is our considered view that the development of
this country depends on all Malawians through their internally generated revenues (via
taxes and levies) and hardworking spirit. What is within our circle of control with or
without direct budgetary support is maximizing revenue generation and how well the
Government utilizes the generated revenue following set priorities for the common
good.
We are compelled to point out that Malawians understand the need for supporting their
Government through taxes and levies. However, it is our considered view that the
Government is not maximizing on the process of revenue generation. This results in a
lot of revenue lost through tax evasion scams by individuals and institutions whose
taxes could have gone a long way in supporting service delivery. There is need for
political will to support the tax collecting body (Malawi Revenue Authority) to do its job
efficiently. We also appeal to all citizens of this country to pay their taxes as an
expression of their patriotism.
On revenue generation, we recall the words of Pope Leo XIII, “a society prospers and
thrives through … fair imposition of public taxes. All citizens, without exception, ought
to contribute to the common good, yet it should not be supposed that all are able to
contribute in the same extent. Justice, therefore, demands that the interests of the
working classes should be carefully watched over by the Government. Such a policy
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would enable the working classes, whose labors greatly contribute to the wealth of the
community, to share in the benefits they create” (Rerum Novarum, 34).
2.5. Lack of fiscal discipline
The Catholic Social Teaching clearly states that our commitment to the common good
requires responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources. The fundamental
implication of this principle is the universal destination of the earth’s goods. “Everyone
also has the right to enjoy the conditions of social life that are brought about by the
quest for the common good” (CSDC, 167). It is for this reason that we would like to
remind all Malawians that no amount of revenue will be enough if the expenditure side
is not prudently managed. We are also concerned with reports of high level of
extravagance demonstrated by Government in different forms. While preaching about
austerity, much travel, large entourages, free rolling expenditure still persist. We also
find the purchase of top of the range vehicles for the Executive, Legislative and
Judiciary very inappropriate. This uncontrolled spending is done at the expense of the
many poor people.
Similarly, we are concerned that whilst there is less funding for critical service delivery
in many Government ministries, there is a lot of spending for less important issues.
There is no justification for organizing banquets from state coffers celebrating the
passing of national budgets. Such insensitive signals in the face of growing poverty
cause a lot of frustrations and pain. We wish to remind the Government and all
Malawians the importance of spending within our means.
“God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members,
without excluding or favoring anyone” (CSDC, 171). Time has come that the cry of the
poor people of this country should become our own, and together we should break
down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy
and egoism (Misericordiae Vultus, 15).
2.6. Unrealistic macroeconomic growth indicators
We are deeply concerned that the Government presents to Malawians
macroeconomic growth indicators which do not reflect the reality on the ground. While
the Government continues to assure the nation that the economy is under control, the
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situation has turned to be very bitter for many Malawians. It is our considered view that
an economy can be said to be performing only and if it leads to prosperity and
dignified lives for the majority Malawians. The economy must serve the people and not
the other way around. The success of any economy should not just be measured
through the so-called macroeconomic growth indicators but the positive effects on the
livelihoods of people. This is a true benchmark of any successful economy. We,
therefore, appeal to the Government to be honest and truthful when presenting the
economic situation so that together we can find solutions. The adopted
macroeconomic policies must protect human life, defend human rights and advance
the well-being of all.
2.7. No to an economy of exclusion
In our society marred by deepening divisions between the rich and the poor, we recall
the story of the Last Judgement (Mt 25:31-46) which instructs us to put the needs of
the poor and the vulnerable first. In the present Malawi, many people still live in
conditions which are hardly compatible with their dignity as sons and daughters of
God. Their life is a continuous manifestation of the theory of the survival of the fittest.
However, it is shocking that a minority enjoys the fruits of development and can afford
to live in luxury and wealth (Living our Faith, p. 2). Ironically, these are also the same
people who can make decisions and policies which can either uplift the majority poor
or further depress their economic prospects.
Faced by this great act of injustice, we have a grave social debt towards the poor who
lack access to infrastructures and basic services. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis
challenges us all to say No to an economy of exclusion (53-54), No to the new idolatry
of money (55-56), No to a financial system that rules than serves (57-58) and No to
the inequality which spawns violence (50-60). In any financial reform, the basic rule
should be creating a system that serves the poor, where the rich help, respect and
promote the poor and not vice versa ( cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 58). The success of an
economy should be measured through the narrowing of the gap between the rich and
the poor. We have said before that “honesty, righteousness, respect, equal opportunity
for all: these must be the qualities which guide our nation as it grows and develops
into the future” (Living our Faith, p. 3). We wish to reiterate that in our society
characterized by growing prosperity for some and pervasive poverty for others, the
basic moral test remains how our most vulnerable members are faring.
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2.8. Contradictions and inconsistencies
From the recent past, we are concerned with the trend which is almost taking shape of
the Government making media statements which are withdrawn immediately after.
Such decisions have the potential of making people to lose trust and confidence in
their own Government. In an instance where the Government stand or policy on
certain issues remains obscure, people tend to wonder if at all the Government has
any policy, agenda to follow or even sense of direction. A lot of examples can be cited
but in the recent past most people have raised concern on the employment of doctors
and nurses and the tabling of Access to Information Bill (AIB). We appeal the
Government to demonstrate that it is in control of the situation and offer the much
needed sense of direction.
2.9. Low education standards
We have pointed out many times that education standards continue to go down in
public schools (primary, secondary and tertiary). Lack of or overcrowded classrooms,
lack of teaching materials, shortage of teachers and deteriorating infrastructures –
dilapidated buildings, near-collapsed libraries and ill-equipped laboratories, among
others are the many signs of a malfunctioning education system. We wish to underline
that no country can achieve any meaningful development without investment in
education.
In view of this, we are concerned about the possible impact of the abolition of
Standard 8 and Junior Certificate examinations. We wish there were wider discussions
and consultations before such a decision was made. This could dispel fears people
have that the Government only wanted to do away with Standard 8 and Junior
Certificate exams for economic expediency and not raising the standards of education.
Again, while appreciating the support the Government renders to the Church-owned
schools (primary and secondary), we appeal to the Government to do more by
supporting infrastructural development in secondary schools if indeed our youth are “to
reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (CSDC, 164).
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2.10. Persistent hunger
In recent years our country has experienced persistent hunger due to either
devastating floods that wash away fields or droughts in some areas. The Government
has always acted swiftly with an emergency response to flood victims. As a short-term
measure we applaud all organizations and institutions that compliment Government’s
efforts to make sure that nobody dies of hunger. We are also happy to learn that the
Government has launched an insurance plan against possible floods and damage.
However, we are very concerned about the shortage of maize in the country. Because
of that, more than 2.8 million Malawians now face hunger, indignity and death without
much hope. People are spending more time waiting on ques to buy maize at ADMARC
markets, a fact which makes them less productive in their fields or work places. This
might be a recipe for another food shortage in the coming months. We are also
worried by the reports of women with children sleeping at ADMARC markets with the
hope of buying maize the following day. We find this very dehumanizing and
unacceptable. Besides maize shortage, there are reports of corruption where private
traders connive with some ADMARC officials to purchase maize in large quantities
and thereafter sell it at exorbitant prices. It is very inhuman to enrich oneself at the
expense of the suffering poor Malawians. Furthermore, what we find most depressing
are utterances of assurance of the availability of maize which are not supported by the
situation on the ground.
In the prevailing circumstances, we appeal to Government agencies such as
ADMARC to place the available maize in strategic markets. The right to food is every
human person’s right. In times like these, we are tempted to turn inward, becoming
indifferent and sometimes isolationist in face of our responsibility towards the needy.
We appeal to all Catholics and people of good will to show solidarity with those in
need. We are called to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers (Gen 4:9). As St. John
Paul II said, this is “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the
common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are
all really responsible for all” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38).
All the measures outlined above are but short-term plans. Long-term measures must
be put in place to transform Malawi into a food secure nation. It is our considered view
that Malawi is blessed with enough natural resources which if properly utilized the
problem of persistent hunger will be an issue of the past. The good waters and plenty
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of fertile land lying idle are assets either underutilized or not used at all. We do not
need to remind our Leadership and the general citizenly that Malawi is a country that
largely depends on Agriculture. Let us, therefore, heed the Apostle’s exhortation: “If
anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3: 10).
On Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (FISP) we appeal to the Government to reform it
or develop an exit strategy. Whatever reforms the Government decides to undertake,
they must promote the interests of poor people. To become a hunger free nation, it is
high time the Government seriously considered investment in large scale
commercialized irrigation farming infrastructure. This will create an opportunity for
many Malawians to grow crops at least twice a year. This we believe is the only way of
making food readily accessible and cheap.
In the same vein, we are concerned about the conflicting reports regarding the
whereabouts of the farm tractors and corn-Sheller machines which the Government
purchased to improve agricultural production. We, therefore, call upon the
Government to investigate this matter. We believe that it will be an act of injustice to
subject poor Malawians to the repayment of the loan yet they have not benefitted from
the tractors and corn-Sheller machines.
Finally, we challenge our experts in the fields of agriculture and irrigation to design and
promote policies and programmes that can make our country a hunger free nation. We
want to point out that Government’s every policy and action should be measured on
the basis of whether it promotes human life, enhances human dignity, particularly for
the poor and the vulnerable. That will be a clear demonstration of the Government’s
commitment to opt for the poor and the vulnerable (Mt 25:31-46).
2.11. Call for non-selective justice and mercy for all
The effects of the infamous plunder of State resources popularly known as Cashgate
are still being felt everywhere in the lives of Malawians. Many sectors such as health
and education are currently struggling. Every Malawian expects the State to
investigate the matter and prosecute if there is enough evidence. The Government
has a legal mandate to investigate and prosecute cases. The general public expects
that the Government should treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves
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considering the serious damage and untold suffering it has brought on many poor
Malawians.
Up to this point, it is encouraging to note that Cashgate cases are being pursued in
courts and that suspects are being tried fairly and sentences provided within the laws
of the country. However, the general expectation from the public has been that of
anguish and anger to the years the culprits are given as punishment. Many believe
that the penal code needs to be reviewed to take into consideration cases like looting
of public funds of this magnitude since such cases were never considered in the past.
We wish to bring to the attention of the Government that Malawians expect more than
what has been done. We are worried with the Government’s tendency to prosecute
some people through the media. We appeal to the Government through its relevant
prosecuting agencies (Anti-Corruption Bureau – ACB, Director of Public Prosecution –
DPP) to investigate and prosecute such suspects if there is enough evidence. We also
call upon the Government to create an enabling environment for the said agencies to
independently investigate and prosecute cases without interference. We also call upon
the prosecuting agencies to expedite investigations of corrupt practices with full-scale
and not selective justice. We wish to remind the Government that in governance, how
citizens perceive their Government is as equally important as reality itself. Therefore,
the Government should investigate and bring to conclusion the K92 billion and K577
billion audit queries. We believe that national interests should come first before any
individual gain or political expedience. All criminals should be arrested and be brought
to justice because “mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of
reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and
believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21).
2.12. Underutilized human resources: Doctors, nurses and teachers
In keeping with the laws of justice and equity, “the Government is required to show no
less energy and efficiency in the matter of providing opportunities for suitable
employment, graded to the capacity of the workers” (Pacem in Terris, 64). While
acknowledging that the Government alone is not capable of employing everybody, it is
wasteful to invest a lot of money and resources in the training of doctors, nurses and
teachers yet they cannot be absorbed into the system characterized by acute shortage
of doctors, nurses and teachers. This could be defined as Government sponsored
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brain-drain where very qualified doctors, nurses and teachers have to fight
unemployment elsewhere and not in their own country. Consequently, this trend
deprives many poor Malawians best service delivery system from those who can offer
expert services.
2.13. National insecurity
The nation is currently gripped with saddening experiences of sustained cases of
insecurity. Individual lives, investors’ and community lives, among many, are insecure
as they go about doing their everyday business. What is more worrisome, in some
instances, is that some police officers, who are supposed to be law enforcers, have
joined hands with criminals terrorizing our society in an unprecedented manner.
Furthermore, we condemn continued instances of communities taking laws into their
own hands by torching and killing suspects due to perceived non responsiveness of
our security and justice systems. We are worried that in the long run, this menace will
chase and scare away prospective foreign investors whilst the Government has been
embarking on a serious drive to attract the much needed investors, a positive initiative
for our country.
We are also deeply disturbed by the reports of the killing of persons with albinism. We
wish to affirm that people with albinism are human beings and their dignity must be
respected and protected by all.
Pope Leo XIII noted that “it is to the interest of the community, as well as of the
individual, that peace and good order be maintained” (Rerum Novarum, 36). We,
therefore, appeal to all citizens and people of good will to collaborate with and support
the Government’s efforts to make this country a peaceful and secure nation.
2.14. Regionalism and tribalism
While we have made important strides as a country to build ourselves as a democratic
nation, we are worried that certain trends or forces have the potential of dividing us.
Elements of regionalism and tribalism are slowly taking root in our society today.
These manifest themselves in various forms especially through social, political and
economic exclusion and inequalities between regions and tribes. Federalism was one
of such manifestations. We remind all the people of Malawi that the founding fathers
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and mothers of this nation invested a lot of efforts and energy to ensure that
Malawians see and treat each other as brothers and sisters. “Unity” is the cornerstone
on which this nation is built. This reflects the will of our Creator that we live in mutual
respect and oneness. We are called to be proud of our tribal or ethnic roots and love
one another as God’s children. No tribe is more valuable or important than the other.
Tribalism, regionalism and divisions whether economic or social are contrary to the
call and truth of mankind (cf. Living our Faith, p. 2-3). We are one human family,
regardless of our regional, tribal, economic, political, religious and ideological
differences. As citizens, we have the responsibility to use words and actions that unite
and heal, and those that promote peaceful coexistence (cf. Strengthening the Vision of
our Destiny, p. 14).
As Pastors, we appeal to all citizens of this country to put Malawi first, before any tribal
or regional interests. We further appeal to all Catholics and people of goodwill to
celebrate our common birth and destiny in mutual respect, acceptance, justice and
love with those who do not share our faith and values. Let’s take heed of the Apostle’s
words, “strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace, one body
and one Spirit, as you were also called to the hope of your call; one Lord, one faith,
one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”
(Ephesians 4:3-6).
Finally, we appeal to the Government to develop policies and programmes that ensure
that all sections of the society are included. We also appeal to all Political Parties, Civil
Society Organizations, Traditional Authorities and the Media fraternity to desist from
making statements that instigate or promote hatred among peace-loving Malawians.
Let the media take great care to relay the truth and not promote divisions. Many
Malawians depend on the media for news, entertainment and developmental
programmes. Therefore, use of divisive, abusive and violent language is not
acceptable in a democracy which encourages divergent views and opinions. Let the
Gospel values, the Church teaching and Media Ethics guide our media when deciding
what to present to Malawians through their various media outlets (cf. Strengthen the
Vision of our Destiny, p. 16).
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2.15. Continued tensions and conflicts in local governance systems and
structures
We were happy that on May 20th 2014, we finally ushered in councilors to effectively
make functional our local governance structures in Malawi. Sadly, we have noted
mounting tensions, suspicions, mistrusts and conflicts among key players in local
Government. We believe, if unattended to, the true meaning and relevancy of local
Government will be watered down and that in turn development and the ordinary
citizens are the greatest losers. As such, we encourage Councilors, Members of
Parliament, Council secretariat officials and traditional leaders to learn to work
together whilst respecting their separate mandates and roles but also by recognizing
their complementarities.
We call upon all concerned parties to be guided by the principle of subsidiarity: “Just
as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own
initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the
same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher
association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do” (CSDC, 186). It
therefore, serves to compel groups to take responsibility for their own well-being while
at the same time limiting larger bodies, like the Government, from undue interference.
2.16. Transformative leadership
For a long time Malawi has been crying for transformative leadership across all
structures. The assumption is that Malawi needs such type of leadership if it has to be
transformed economically, politically and socially creating enabling better living
conditions for all. God recommends leadership that is visionary, transformative,
empowering, caring, serving, protective, people-centered and obedient to Him
(Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 10-11). To be transformative, “a leader
should be ready to make things new, bringing about changes with a positive difference
not just for the sake of change” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 15).
Among others, a transformative leader has the following qualities: person of vision, a
good steward, exemplary, respect for the Constitution and Rule of Law, accountable,
democratic and God-fearing (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 14-15).
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It is our view that only transformative leadership is capable of putting up a very
efficient civil service that brings about effective service delivery in all spheres of life.
For the sake of their people, such leaders discard old ways of governing and doing
politics which are probably wasteful. They are leaders who match words with actions.
Good leaders must be able to set the tone – “setting goals and objectives that are
specific, achievable, and measurable reflecting people’s aspirations, hopes and
dreams” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p. 14).
We, therefore, appeal to the Government, Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations,
Faith-Based Organizations, Religious Bodies and Traditional Authorities to seriously
reflect on and embrace within their structures transformative leadership qualities (cf.
Choosing our Leaders in the forthcoming elections, p. 3-6; Taking Responsibility for
our future: Together towards the 2009 Elections, p. 7-8; Strengthening the Vision of
our Destiny, p. 15). Leaders across all structures should be honest, trustworthy, fair,
and truthful, with a good reputation and integrity.
We, the Catholics Bishops, believe that these are the type of leaders who can inspire
in the general citizenly active participation and a spirit of patriotism. In view of this, we
support the current Leadership’s call to the spirit of hard work, integrity and patriotism.
Countries which have turned around from being failed to thriving states have largely
done so through these qualities. We shall therefore, continue to preach to all
Malawians, as we have done before, that “active participation in the building up of the
nation is the responsibility of every citizen” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p.
11). As Malawians, we need to rediscover the spirit of patriotism and actively take part
in shaping and implementing the national development agenda. Nobody can develop
Malawi except Malawians. This process demands of us integrity, patriotism and hard
work. The rampart plundering of the country’s resources in the name of Cashgate and
the growing trends of corruption reflect badly on our love for the Motherland.
In this Year of Mercy, a special call to transformation and repentance goes to those
who either perpetrate or participate in corruption. As Pope Francis says, “Corruption
prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters
the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor” (Misericordiae
Vultus, 19). The Holy Year of Mercy is the opportune moment for each one of us to
change and transform our lives. In front of the damage our country has already
suffered due to serious crimes such as corruption, it is time to listen to the cry of
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innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and
even their very lives. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and
submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church (cf.
Misericordiae Vultus, 19).
2.17. Mature and constructive opposition
More than two decades of plural politics, we still note that the role of the Opposition
parties seems to be limited to Parliamentary sessions. Through parliamentary
debates, Parliamentary committees, Political parties and individual MPs continue to
provide an oversight role to the Executive. However, we feel that there is room for
improvement. Firstly, we expect the Opposition to work with the Government in finding
solutions to problems affecting our nation especially the hunger crisis. We call upon
the Opposition as the Government in waiting to offer alternative solutions to the
current challenges facing this country. It is in this way, that the Opposition
demonstrates that it cares and feels the pain of citizenry. In difficult times like these,
such a role gains more importance than usual.
Secondly, we expect the Opposition to do social audits and provide informed
alternative policy proposals than the usual political rhetoric that only pleases the
emotions of citizens and yet does not bring about a radical change of direction of
things. In order to develop, Malawi needs the Opposition that critically scrutinizes
Government policies and strategies on the national development agenda. Ordinary
Malawians expect their elected representatives, in parliament to have mature and
meaningful deliberations and not mere political party publicity stunts.
Thirdly, we expect the Opposition to inculcate within its rank and file intra-party
democracy. It is our duty to remind all leaders that “genuine democratic leaders will
consult and listen to others, will appropriately delegate, share power, make corporate
decisions and give credit where it belongs” (Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, p.
15). It is our conviction that it is within the political party that democracy starts; it is
also here that it starts to fail! Intra-party politics is capable of making our democracy
grow and mature. We, therefore, appeal to all the Opposition parties faced with infighting
and factional struggles to demonstrate to Malawians that they are capable of
resolving their differences in a mature way. Running the country is the responsibility of
all; the party in power, the Opposition parties and the general citizenry.
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2.18. Care for the environment
As a nation conflicted by environmental issues, we wish to make an appeal to all
citizens of this country to make deliberate efforts to care for the God-given natural
resources. The devastating floods and persistent droughts should act as a reminder
that something has gone wrong in our relationship with nature. The Catholic tradition
insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care
for the environment is not just an activity for the National Tree Planting Day; it is a
requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith
relationship in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has
fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
We make a strong appeal to the Government for a proper utilization of our forests in
the country and examine how the harvests of these forests have benefited Malawians.
We call upon all Catholic communities and institutions of higher learning to discuss,
digest and disseminate the message of Holy Father, Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ on the
care of our common home. We find the message of the encyclical pertinent to our
context.
Conclusion
We, the Catholic Bishops, as Pastors of souls acknowledge the many challenges the
poor people are facing in this country. We call upon the Government to show
leadership in steering the nation to hard working, self-reliance and diversification of
production. In the present circumstances, the Government should review some of its
policies and practices to ensure a change of mindset and attitudes so as to ensure
national and household food security, social security, protection of the environment
through promotion of alternative sources of energy and many other areas.
We also call upon all Malawians of goodwill to the unity of purpose by working
together to implement the national agenda. In order to develop, Malawi needs people
of integrity, sense of direction and patriotism. In this process, the Government must
lead by example by creating an enabling environment so that all Malawians,
regardless of their political affiliations, can unite and deliver that national agenda.
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We call upon all Catholics and people of goodwill to seriously reflect on these moral
principles and values we have presented. The Scriptures say, “Without a vision the
people perish” (Proverb 29:18). As Catholics we have an inspiring vision in our social
teaching. In a country that hungers for a sense of meaning and moral direction,
Catholic Social Teaching should offer us ethical criteria for action. These principles
should therefore, be considered as a central part of our identity, because we have
been called to be the salt and the light of the earth (Mt 5: 13-16).
As St. Paul says, “neither death nor hunger will separate us from the love of Christ,” it
is our deep conviction that our love and trust in God is the deepest and most invincible
motive for our trust in Christian hope. Even if our entire existence is surrounded by
threats of hunger, poverty, injustices, pandemics, climate change, etc. nothing will
ever separate us from the love of Christ, who in His mercy gave Himself fully for us.
We now turn to Mary, the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance
watch us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s
tenderness! May she never tire of turning her merciful eyes upon us, and make us
worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus (Misericordia Vultus, 24).
Most Reverend Thomas Msusa Chairman and Archbishop of Blantyre
Right Reverend Martin Mtumbuka Vice Chairman and Bishop of Karonga
Most Reverend Tarsizio G. Ziyaye Archbishop of Lilongwe
Right Reverend Peter Musikuwa Bishop of Chikwawa
Right Reverend Emmanuel Kanyama Bishop of Dedza
Right Reverend Montfort Stima Bishop of Mangochi
Right Reverend George Tambala Bishop of Zomba
Monsignor Michael Muwowo Diocesan Administrator of Mzuzu
Dated: Fifth Sunday of Lent, 13th March, 2016
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Episcopal Conference of Malawi

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