The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) has incurred the wrath of some Malawians after it urged government to enforce a dress code in the country.
MCC also says as a mark of respect for Sunday as a day of prayer for some Christians, activities such as weddings, political rallies and markets should be held on other days or Sunday afternoon after prayers.
The organisation said this in a communiquÃ© released on Friday at the end of a conference held in Liwonde.
In a country where civil and personal liberties as well as freedom of religion are getting entrenched, MCCâ€™s demands have shocked some people who argue that the organisation is being unreasonable and retrogressive.
Reads part of the communiquÃ©: â€œAs a Christian organisation, the council respects government in the manner it approaches critical issues, and, therefore, proposes that government addresses the general â€˜code of dressâ€™ among Malawians.â€
So, is MCC calling for a National Sunday Law and national dress code?
The councilâ€™s newly elected chairperson, Reverend Alex Maulana, whose signature appears on the communiquÃ©, said yesterday MCC only wants people to respect Sunday as a day of prayer.
â€œWe are not calling for a National Sunday Law. We are calling for the whole Christendom to observe this holy day, as you know Malawi is 85 percent Christian. We need to respect that day. We are not saying it should be law but just respected,â€ said Maulana.
â€œWe have seven days in a week; we can move those activities elsewhere. We did not discuss Saturday or Friday because Seventh-Day Adventists and Muslims are not part of MCC, but even if they were, I donâ€™t think they would love to see those things happening on their day of worship,â€ he added.
On the dress code, he said while people have the right to dress as they please, they should not lose the sense of responsibility.
â€œWe know people have freedom and rights to dress, but rights must go with responsibility. Many people, especially the youths, are not dressing properly, exposing their body parts,â€ said Maulana.
A Malawian who was riled by the statement, Macdonald Tembo, condemned MCC for trying to impose its moral values on Malawians.
â€œThis is not a Christian State; the Church has no control on what we dress or eat …let them teach the word of God and people will make informed decisions themselves. Malawi is a secular State and secularism is the principle of separation of government institutions, and the persons mandated to represent the State, from religious institutions and religious dignitaries.
â€œIn one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and the right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people within a State that is neutral on matters of belief.
â€œIn another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be unbiased by religious influence,â€ said Tembo.
Asked if the Church is not trying to impose its teachings on a secular State, Maulana stood his ground, saying Malawi is not secular.
â€œWe cannot even dream that Malawi is secular,â€ he said, firmly.