There was heated debate at Chiuzimbi SDA Church in Lilongwe Saturday last week over whether the church should approve family planning and contraceptives as measures for mitigating the effects of overpopulation.
Futures Group-Health Policy Project (HPP) facilitated the debate with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates through the University of North Carolina (UNC).
One of the participants, Elizabeth Ngongonda, said it is wrong for believers to control population, arguing that the Bible mandates couples to bear “as many children as possible” and subdue the world.
Ngongoda said mankind has not conquered the world to the level that would satisfy God.
“Our socio-economic challenges aren’t linked to overpopulation, but our failure to obey God. God commanded us to pay tithe, but very few do this. It is this disobedience that is the source of our calamities today, not overpopulation,” she said.
Ngongonda said the calamities people are facing today can easily be averted if mankind returns to God’s will.
But another participant, Patrick Khonga, said this interpretation of the Bible is fallacious as it suggests that God imposes his will on people.
Khonga said God gives people the freedom to make their own choices regarding the size of families they want to keep as long as this is in accordance with his teachings.
He also enlightened his fellow Adventists that it is against the teachings of their faith for parents to bear children without considering their capacity to provide for them.
“Before increasing our families, let us consider whether God would be glorified or dishonoured by our bringing children into the world.
“We have no right to bring children into the world to be a burden to others,” said Khonga amid applause from panellists.
Lemanson Mphande agreed with Khonga, saying parents who cannot support their children because of inadequate resources are worse than unbelievers.
“We can refer to 1 Timothy 5:8, which says: ‘But if anyone does not take care of his relatives, especially the members of his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,’” he said.
HPP programme advisor responsible for population and family planning Laston Banda warned that overpopulation will soon hound humanity if couples do not slow down on child bearing.
Banda said this is why his organisation is working with faith groups in mobilising believers to take key roles in managing population growth with a focus on family planning as the key strategy for achieving the goal.