Catholic bishops in Malawi have asked government and all stakeholders to have sober minds when finding solutions to the difficult political, social and economic times the country is facing.
The bishopsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ appeal comes at the end of their first plenary meeting this year held in the capital, Lilongwe from January 24 to 27.
But, while welcoming the bishopsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ appeal, government says the clerics should play their role as advisers with neutrality.
On his part, civil rights activist Benedicto Kondowe says the bishopsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ appeal can only be realised if the prevailing “executive arrogance”, the attack against citizens as well as civil society, hero-worshipping and an unlistening wisdom approach to issues change.
Reads the bishopsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ statement dated January 27 2012: “After a reflective deliberation on the hard and difficult political, social and economic times Malawi is currently experiencing, the bishops make an appeal to all the citizenry of this country, namely government, political parties, faith communities, civil [society], diplomats and everybody else to handle the current situation with sober minds, guided by the spirit of truth and love that will lead different stakeholders to engage into a meaningful and listening dialogue, thereby enabling all people to respect each other and uphold the rights of everybody, especially children and women.
“They [bishops] further appeal to all the citizenry to refrain from any form of violence that would only result into the disruption of the much desired development and peace we cherish in this country.”
The statement is signed by the Episcopal Conference of Malawi secretary general Father George Buleya.
Reacting to the statement, MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Minister of Information and Civic Education Patricia Kaliati on Wednesday said: “We thank the bishops for that. It is our prayer that all of us, including them should work together. It is not only sober minds [that are needed] but love to handle the issues. As advisers, the bishops should be neutral.”
But Kondowe argued Malawi Government does not provide room for citizens to participate in their democracy.
Said Kondowe in an interview on Thursday: “We have a government that does not listen, a government that believes it is bigger than the citizens that constitute it, and a government that knows-it-all even in the face of deep-rooted failure.
“Citizens must rise to reality to defend their human rights and demand accountability from any leader they usher into government.”
Among other resolutions at the plenary meeting, the bishops agreed to allow medical recommendation for male circumcision to be carried out in Catholic ChurchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s health facilities that have been identified as centres for the exercise.
Ã¢â‚¬â€Catholic bishopsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ have been influential on MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s social and political spheres since March 1992 when they issued their monumental Lenten Pastoral Letter, Living our Faith, that criticised the one-party administration.
Ã¢â‚¬â€In November 2010, the bishops also issued another Pastoral Letter, Reading the Signs of the Times, which noted flaws in the current administration, including threats to press freedom, lack of intra-party democracy, lack of respect for the Office of the Vice-President.