The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has announced a shift of focus on its dialogue initiative from the political perspective to other emerging issues requiring urgent attention.
In a telephone interview yesterday, PAC executive secretary Robert Phiri said there was no pressing political issue at the moment requiring mediation; hence, the shift in focus.
But he clarified that the quasi-religious grouping will still embark on dialogue on political matters if need arises.
Said Phiri: “At the moment, there is nothing to mediate from any dialogue process we initiated. We have prioritised emerging issues like the billboard issue which was resolved as well as the dress code issue.”
Last month, PAC facilitated dialogue between Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) and Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) who differed on the content of a billboard that allegedly used offensive words towards Christians.
PAC is also initiating a dialogue process between Muslims and Christians on dress code of students who belong to different religions following a request the Ministry of Education made.
This followed a dress code dispute between Muslims and Christians at Mmanga Primary School in Traditional Authority Nsamala in Balaka District where female Muslim learners were barred from attending class wearing a hijab.
Phiri yesterday said they have since organised training workshops on dress code from today and tomorrow targeting senior clergy from schools of the two faiths.
The training workshops are scheduled to take place in Blantyre where the senior members of the two religions are expected to go through separate sessions.
“An advisory opinion emanating from this exercise could feed into the legal framework,” he said.
Phiri said while PAC had proposed of proceeding with their dialogue on the matter after the fresh presidential election, the billboard dispute saga emerged; hence, PAC had to intervene in the matter.
Some of the dialogue initiatives PAC has been undertaking include implementation of the Electoral Reforms Bills and the debate on federalism.
In its request to PAC, the Ministry of Education also expanded the scope of the dialogue to include Rastafarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who Phiri said are being included in the process.
In the aftermath of the disputed May 21 2019 presidential election which was later annulled by the courts, PAC rolled out a dialogue initiative to calm down a heated political atmosphere from opposition political parties and other stakeholders that were disputing the polls.
When the court nullified the presidential election and ordered a fresh vote, PAC pledged to observe the political situation after calm had been restored.
But in an earlier interview, governance expert and Institute of Policy Interaction executive director Rafiq Hajat said if PAC was going to proceed with the dialogue process, it should go back to the drawing board to change its focus.
He said dialogue was still necessary to find lasting solutions as there were many things involved in the overall process.
PAC is a grouping of umbrella bodies of faith groups in Malawi formed in the early 1990s and played a key role in the transition from one-party to multiparty democracy.