People find it difficult to live in harmony and coexistence where the majority lives in abject poverty while a few flourish in opulence.
Wealth that is concentrated in the hands of a few people has been a cause of differences in some societies as the poor consider themselves victims of the economic selfishness of the rich.
For others, it has proved difficult to coexist with neighbours of a different skin colour, political affiliations, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.
For some people, religious institutions are the key to differences and conflicts. The assumption is that faith organisations are governed and guided by the teachings of their faiths which thrive on unconditional love, brotherliness, peace and coexistence.
Unfortunately, this is a mere dream. It seems latter-day believers are more interested in achieving material possessions than salvation from eternal death.
An example is the severing of ties between Nkhoma and Livingstonia CCAP synods. The differences arose after the two synods failed to agree on the boundaries.
Certainly, this would make one wonder if the dispute bordered on a spiritual battle or material benefits.
In his book titled ‘Living Together’, an Italian philanthropist and founder of a Catholic charity movement—the Community of Sant’ Egidio—Professor Andrea Ricardi wonders if man will ever achieve peace in his lifetime.
“We all yearn to live in a peaceful world and yet wherever we live, we seem to be surrounded by conflict, violence and disharmony. Is there a solution?” asks Ricardi.
He cites the example of Ivory Cost, a country divided between North and South and between Muslims and Christians.
In 2009, the world witnessed Sudan and South Sudan going their different ways. South Sudanese felt it was being discriminated against and deprived of socioeconomic development because the president, Omar al-Bashir, was a northerner.
Back home, although Malawians are known for being warm and kind, one would be naïve to turn a blind eye to divisions that are there, caused by political, religious or ethnic differences.
As Father BonifaceTamani of the Catholic Church noted, some faith groups have been reckless in their attempts to grow, thereby entrenching disunity among Malawians.
Tamani singled out a programme on one of the radios which he feared may incite violence between Christians and Muslims.
“In the programme, people pretending to be Christians ask questions about Christianity and its beliefs. And a sheikh posing as an expert in Christianity answers those questions in a derogatory manner. The attack annoys many Christians, but have always refrained from retaliating,” he said.
Chairperson of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad said his faith does not condone attacks on other faiths “because Islam means peace.”
But Muhammad acknowledged the existence of some overzealous believers who engage in immoral and unspiritual practices such as hurling insults at people of other faiths.
“The need for religious coexistence cannot be overemphasised. And it is only where there is respect for each other’s faith that we can achieve this coexistence,” he said.
A member of the Community of Sant’ Egidio in Balaka, Francisco Zuze, said achieving peace in Malawi cannot be a big problem because “people are already peaceful who have never known war.”
Zuze said there is need for faith groups to foster and promote harmony and coexistence.