From ancient times, believers have used religion as a tool for entrenching peace, love and harmony among people irrespective of race, colour and other considerations.
They were not naïve. After all, all religions—both the oldest and the latest—have one thing in common: fighting Satan who is the source of all evil, including hatred.
Generally, religion preaches peace. Most importantly, religion seeks to achieve equality of people because we are all created in the image of God.
Isaiah 28:17 emphasises this point by saying: “And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the leveling instrument; and the hail must sweep away the refuge of a lie and the waters themselves will flood out the very place of concealment.”
However, there have been allegations that some churches and faith-based organisations use religion to oppress the weak.
Recently, striking workers of a local FBO were challenging their management to explain if ‘Christianity and stewardship’ had become a tool for oppressing the weak.
It is not only in Malawi where some people have used faith as a justification for trumpling upon the poor.
So has religion lost its light and moral campus?
Christopher Banda of Lilongwe said most believers fear to question the actions of their faith leaders.
Banda said most believers regard their leaders as superhuman and, therefore, beyond reproach.
“It’s this fear among believers to question actions of their faith leaders that provides room for manipulation of biblical texts to satisfy one’s desires. Unless believers remove this fear, faith leaders and masters will continue taking advantage of our trust in them to satisfy their evil desires,” he said.
A Mzuzu-based Christian, Mary Nyirenda, said faith leaders or FBO leaders who are using holy texts to justify evil deeds should be fired to avoid putting their religion into disrepute.
“Such leaders shouldn’t be given room to run the affairs of the church or an FBO. That would be putting the name of God into disrepute because one would be tempted to think that God sent them to ill-treat the poor,” said Nyirenda.
Bishop Michael Dama of the Full Glory of God Mission Church in Balaka said there are some believers who are using religion to justify evil deeds, including treading upon the rights of the weak.
Dama said through purposeful distortion or genuine ignorance, some faith leaders are also taking advantage of religious beliefs to justify their involvement in irreligious activities.
“A good example is when faith leaders are manipulating biblical texts to blindfold their followers that our wealth is in heaven while they [pastors] are busy helping themselves to church money. This is very wrong and sinful before God,” he said.
Dama said even if holy books such as the Bible and Qur’an do not prescribe special penalties reserved for people who distort holy texts to suit their interests, faith leaders who use religion to oppress the weak will face the consequences.
He asked believers to read their holy books to “save themselves from these tricksters.”
Dama said blaming religion for the evil deeds of evil men is akin to blaming cars for driving too fast and killing their drivers.