Pastor Forbes Msiska is a pastor of Word of Life Church. He has included sex workers as part of his ministration. Our correspondent Dyson Mthawanji spoke to him.
I come from Karonga, but I live in Blantyre. I am married with nine children. I am also raising my late bother’s children. I attended Mzuzu Secondary School and later studied business studies at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima).
I worked at Scripture Union of Malawi for five years where I was in-charge of promoting Bible reading among young people in schools and colleges. Later, I joined Multi Country where I worked for 13 years before joining Blantyre Baptist Church as administrator and finance officer.
When did you become a pastor?
I became a pastor in 2003. Immediately, I established Word of Life Church. I am overseer of this church which has nine branches in Blantyre, Thyolo and Karonga.
Talk more about the sex workers.
I am indeed known for advocating prostitutes’ rights and good health. However, this is not attached to my church. I carry these responsibilities because I am executive director of Badilika Foundation, a local Non-governmental organisation (NGO) which deals with the welfare of vulnerable women and girls across the country.
I registered it in 2007. Through this NGO, we enlighten prostitutes on their rights. We also empower them with knowledge so that they can shift to other safe trading activities if they are willing and ready to do so.
Why did you embark on this advocacy?
In 2005, my younger brother died of Aids. This angered me and I decided to do something towards the fight against HIV and Aids. Eventually, I chose to work with prostitutes.
How do you conduct the advocacy?
We visit drinking joints to meet sex workers and hear their problems. If they face violations of their rights, we encourage them to report to police. Furthermore, we give them condoms for protection.
Condoms? From a pastor?
First of all, we realise that these prostitutes are human beings with social and economic needs. Most of them are in this trade because they want money to survive. Therefore, the first thing is to protect their lives. Secondly, we tell them that they still have chance to do other businesses and turn to God if they are ready for that. We are here to protect them from HIV infection. We also don’t want HIV positive prostitutes to spread the virus.
Is there place for prostitutes in heaven?
Yes, there is a place for these prostitutes in heaven. For your own information, God loves prostitutes like any other person. God will welcome them in heaven if they accept Jesus.
How do people in your church react to your association with prostitutes?
They understand because I talk to them regularly on why prostitutes should be protected. I tell them that prostitutes are people like us. They need to be respected. Even Jesus loved prostitutes, according to the Bible.
What are some of the challenges you face?
There are a lot of challenges but I always smile when I overcome them. For example, when I invade a pub usually prostitutes scramble for me thinking I am a client. Sometimes, I invite one prostitute in my car just to interview her on the challenges they face. The prostitute thinks I want her sex services and she starts caressing me. Later she partly becomes disappointed when I say I just want to hear some challenges she face in her trade so that Badilika Foundation can help. n