Is the right to religion at stake in Malawi?

On the evening of 29th July, Malawians were shocked with news that a billboard erected by the Islamic Information Bureau in Maselema-Blantyre was vandalised by an unidentified group of people.

The billboard had a message that read “IF YOU HAVE READ THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW TESTAMENT, NOW READ THE LAST TESTAMENT-THE QURAN”. Ever since its appearance, there have been mixed reactions from the general public and a national debate has ensured on social media about this matter as most Christians have found it to be insulting to their faith.

Before and after vandalism: The billboard at the center of national controversy

On the other hand, the billboard has irked many people of Christian faith. A Letter addressed to Blantyre City Council signed by Rev. Zacc Kawalala who is the chairman for the Blantyre College of Spiritual Fathers was not too pleased with the message the billboard carried and he spit fire in a letter addressed to the Muslem bureau.

Part of the letter reads, “We want to clearly state here that the Old Testament and the New Testament are books in the Christian Bible. Therefore reference to the Old Testament and the New Testament in such a manner, in a country that’s predominantly Christian, even without specifically mentioning the Bible, is tantamount to a comparison between the Bible and the Quran. Such an action is unacceptable and a recipe for religious conflict in the country.”

The letter further states that “Churches in the city of Blantyre are disturbed by this message displayed on this billboard. We would like to request the city of Blantyre, in the spirit of peace and coexistence, to immediately remove this provocative message on the said billboard … within the next 7 days”

The letter also stressed that the city council should act with urgency on this matter and that if it fails, the churches will take unspecified action to address this matter.

Is the right to religion at stake in Malawi? Well, a humble advice from Akometsi to all those who are in authority is to “please tread very carefully and cautiously when addressing this matter” we love the peace in this country. Religiously, Malawi despite being predominantly Christian, is not a theocratic state. It remains secular where freedom and religious tolerance is observed. Keep it a land of peace.




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