The United Nations (UN) resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres has urged Malawians to respect each other’s religious beliefs and engage in peaceful dialogue when resolving differences.
Her call comes amid growing tension around Mangochi Turn-Off in Liwonde between Christians and Muslims which resulted in a bloody fight on Monday, leaving several people injured, two of them seriously.
The warring parties have been at loggerheads for over a month now following the refusal by the Anglican Church to allow Muslim girls learning at its M’manga primary and community day secondary schools to wear a hijab. A hijab is a veil worn by some Muslim women to cover the head and chest.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Torres expressed concern over the incident, describing the violence and destruction of property as “criminal and unacceptable”.
She said: “The rights to freedom of expression and religion are fundamental rights that ensure human dignity and a functional democracy.”
Torres observed that preventing access to services such as education because of one’s religious beliefs was against human rights and international standards on freedom of education as stipulated in Section 36 (3)(c) (III) of the Education Act (2013).
She said such actions discourage girls from attending school, denying them the right to learn and actively participate in society.
During the Monday fracas, business came to a standstill at Mangochi Turn-Off as the two warring factions engaged in running battles and one person, a sheikh, was seriously injured.