The leadership of the Catholic church has described this year’s Season of Lent as an opportunity for all Malawians of good will to reflect on how the nation has been governed, 25 years after attaining democracy.
In a Lenten Season pastoral message from the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), expected to be read out in all parishes today, ECM reminds Malawians that the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections will be conducted at the threshold of the 25th anniversary of multiparty democracy.
However, the church bemoans that there is nothing much to show for as the country is still trapped in abject poverty.
The message advises Christians and Malawians of goodwill that this is a moment of grace considering that from this year’s Ash Wednesday (March 6), the Season of Lent started which encompasses 40 days of privileged moment of intense prayer, fasting and almsgiving; hence, the appropriate time to reflect on the future of this nation.
“The forthcoming tripartite elections provide us the opportunity to determine the direction of this country and elect the type of leaders capable of bringing about the Malawi we want,” reads the message authored by the ECM secretary general Reverend Father Henry Saindi, but endorsed by the bishops.
The message says the forthcoming tripartite elections taking place after 25 years of democratic governance, will accord Malawians a rare opportunity to evaluate and assess the maturity of the country’s democracy.
The message, coming at a time the nation is facing serious economic hardships, among social problems, including security lapse as people with albinism face killings and abductions, calls upon Malawians to accept with gratitude “what has worked, acknowledge with humility what has not worked and decide with courage what needs to be fixed”.
Referring to the April 29 2018 Pastoral Letter by the Catholic bishops, titled ‘A Call for a New Era in Malawi’, in this message, Fr Saindi who has provided reflections on the previous pastoral letter, says it had two main objectives namely, to help Malawi assess the maturity of the democracy and help prepare for the May 21 2019 polls.
The April 29 2018 Pastoral Letter, the message reads, also acknowledged the availability of God-given resources such as hardworking people, existence of the third largest lake in Africa, Lake Malawi, and other lakes; availability of arable land, majestic mountains, natural resources and the precious gift of peace the nation has enjoyed since independence.
But despite such resources, Fr Saindi recalls that the pastoral letter observed that Malawi continues to be ranked among the poorest countries in the world, a situation which calls for serious soul-searching by all Catholics and people of goodwill.
“Indeed, we must accept that there is something wrong in our society that needs to be put right. Malawi as a nation needs a change of direction if we are to reverse the situation. There should be a total change in the way of doing things other than ‘business as usual’, which entails a change of mindset leading to a new era of fairness and justice for
Among other things, the bishops are inviting Catholics and all people of goodwill to reflect and deeply assess the progress made in entrenching true and genuine democracy, both at intra-party and inter-party levels; citizens’ understanding of and participating in democracy and the affairs of their State and rebooting the whole systems and structures of public service delivery, for example, delivery of health care services which is in crisis.
In the April 29 2018 Pastoral Letter, which today’s message is providing reflections to be considered from this Lenten Season to Easter, the bishops tipped off Malawians on how to get the Malawi they want. They said in order to create a new era in Malawi and an era where truth, fairness and respect for the dignity of all are observed Catholics and people of goodwill are duty-bound to elect people they trust are capable of delivering on their pre-election campaign promises.
The bishops call upon Malawians to choose servant leaders who are ready to become heroic agents of change, not only for the deeds they do but also for the stand they take on unpopular issues.
Other known challenges Malawi faces include deep-rooted corruption, mostly in government-related transactions citing that, according to the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International, Malawi is 120 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries.
Father Saindi’s message, has taken the place of the traditional pastoral letters that the Catholic bishops issue from time to time to their faithful. The first pastoral letter by Catholic bishops in the country, titled How to Build a Happy Nation, was issued in 1961. But the one that Malawians remember most is the March 8 1992 Pastoral Letter, titled Living Our Faith, which cemented the beginning of the fight for plural politics.