On Wednesday this week, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) was all over traditional news media, on social media and in public transport condemning as it were one of the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 that gatherings be reduced to a maximum of 100 people.
A bit of history is important for those who do not know or understand the role and importance of PAC in Malawi’s public affairs.
When, in the early 1990s the Life President Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) tacitly accepted Malawians’ quest for a change to plural party politics and a culture of respect for human rights, the government constituted a Presidential Committee on Dialogue (PCD) and asked the pro-multipartysts to come up with their own representative team to dialogue with government so as to have a smooth transition.
The faith groupings in Malawi, particularly Christians and Muslims came together and formed the Public Affairs Committee (PAC). Then there were virtually no vocal civil society organisations. Industrial associations did exist but they mostly about dealth with the welfare of their members.
However, PAC did really represent Malawians very well in its dialogue with the PCD ahead of preparations for elections of 1994 and the drafting of Malawi’s constitution, which selfish MPs had diluted to almost nothingness.
Over the years PAC’s major expertise have stood out as religion, social and development, umunthu ethics, morality, education and public dialogue.
As far as we know and can remember PAC has never been called for its opinion on medical issues. Until last Wednesday, PAC has never been involved in decisions related to disease control except as an implementer of scientist-mooted interventions.
As such, Prof Dr Joyce Befu, MEGA-1 and the rest of her expeditionary team were taken aback that PAC was challenging government’s restriction measures on matters related to Covid-19.
The person who spoke on behalf of PAC said the restrictions on gatherings will be disobeyed. And that worries us. If the men and women of God openly ridicule and tell the world not follow Covid-19 preventative measures, what will happen to their followers?
God loves His people and wants them to live happily and Jesus comes back to earth. Skipping a Christmas mass gathering is not tantamount to disobeying God’s commandments. The Church needs healthy people.
Persuade us that God or Jesus would support advising churchgoers to defy WHO and government medical personnel on Covid-19 restrictions. God knows the safety of Christians during these Covid-19 times is at stake. Our PAC leaders should not lead their Christian flock unto slaughter. Not in the name of God, Jesus and Christmas.
It would appear PAC has not heard about a new strain of the new coronavirus detected in South Africa and England. Reports from the two countries indicate the new strain is more deadly, spreads faster, and does not care about age limits.
We fully understand what Christmas means to Christians. But this unique day can be celebrated differently this year and until Covid-19 is eliminated with vaccines. Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) have proved that the church can still reach out to its members and celebrate Christmas with them online.
The Pope did the same at one point because he understands the dangers that Covid-19 poses on Christians. At the funeral of the late Archbishop Ziyaye, almost all clergy wore masks and socially distanced themselves because they understand that a mask and social distancing are not a political statement but a serious Covid-19 preventative measure.
PAC must emulate the Pope and Shepherd Bushiri. Let prayers be held differently in these trying times.