The Southern Africa Indian Ocean Division and Malawi Union Advisory on Communication and Public Affairs Religious Liberty was conducted in Lilongwe at Kumtsinje Premier Lodge from 23rd to 25 January 2012.
Dr Paul Charles, who is the current Director for Communication and Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL), was the main facilitator of this seminar and was assisted by Mr Mozecie Kadyakapita, the Malawi Union Director of these two departments.
Among the delegates were leaders from two fields and the Central Conference. Two Leaders were from South Malawi, namely Pastor Wyson Eliya and Pastor Luke Limbithu; two leaders were from North Malawi Field, namely Pastor McJoe Chavula and Pastor Stanley Chipeta and the two leaders who attended from the Central Malawi Conference were Pastor Goodwell Nakawole and Pastor Earnest Khonje.
During our Communication/PARL Advisory in Malawi, we had the privilege of addressing more than 70 local leaders on the importance of PARL/IRLA. There are a lot of misconceptions with regards to the church engagement with the State, so it was a good opportunity for us to clarify the issues. In our meetings, we covered the vital areas of PARL and we made available the PARL handbook and all other resources available to all Conference leaders.
Further, an official statement was formulated and issued to the government and public. This statement was a response to a recent spate of literally undressing women in public and leaving them mercilessly beaten because some thought it was indecent for women to wear trousers/pants.
An excerpt from the Statement:
We, the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, speak up and join with others to bring an end to violence against women and children. Global statistics indicate that in all societies women and children are more frequently the victims of violence. Actions or threats likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering are incompatible with biblical ethics and Christian morality. Such actions include, but are not limited to, domestic violence, rape, dowry violence and any other violation of human dignity. Manipulation, denial of personal liberty, freedom of movement and coercion are also acts of abuse and violence. To such behaviors the Seventh-day Adventist Church says, “Let’s enditnow!”
Further, we had a visit by the honourable Chief of Staff to the State President. We briefly outlined the goals of IRLA/PARL to him. He said that this was the first time that he heard about it and was so pleased and excited about our initiative. He publicly pledged support to our Departments.
In collaboration with him, a meeting for the church leaders to meet with the State President in the month of February was arranged. He was so impressed that our desire to pray for the nation was to include all leaders including Catholics, Presbyterians, etc. The State President sent us word that he appreciates the position of the SDA church with regards to separation of state and church. He further expressed appreciation for our openness and honesty with regards to the agenda of our meeting.
This was the first time that the PARL Directors of the Malawi union had met with a high ranking government official so it was an important learning curve, regarding protocol, etc.
We thank God for the opportunity we had to participate in all the activities during those 3 days, the Lord truly blessed us. It was practical and informative.
By Dr Earnest Khonje – Malawi