As I write this piece, all is not well in the Livingstonia Synod. There is a rift in the leadership consisting of Secretary General, Moderator, Kirk Session and so on. I am not interested in who is right but what is right.
Before the contenders go to the next round of their meetings, I suggest they read volumes 1 and 2 of History of Malawi by DD Phiri about the history and achievements of the Free Church of Scotland in that part of Malawi.
During the colonial days, that part of the country was being dubbed the Dead North. The government erected only three district administrative centres there, namely Mzimba, Nkhata Bay and Karonga; businesses which had headquarters in Blantyre opened branches in the central province but, except Mandala, Christian denominations which were very active in the south and centre ignored the north.
Despite the repellent environment of the north, the Free Church of Scotland set about building schools and prayer houses in every major village. At Livingstonia, the Overtoun institution was offering a variety of courses. Zimbabwe historians quoted in volume 1 state that at one time the northern part of Malawi was educationally the most advanced in Central Africa. This was exclusively the work of the Free Church. Upon finding it could not effectively cover its station, in central Nyasaland the Free Church invited the Dutch Reformed Church mission of South Africa to come and operate there. It handed to it stations such as Chilanga in Kasungu. There were cordial relations between DRC and the Free Church throughout.
As independence approached, the Free Church handed its mission to a new body called Synod of Livingstonia, the DRC in Malawi transformed itself to the Synod of Nkhoma. To begin with, relations between the two synods continued to be cordial. However, they began disagreeing on boundaries. In retaliation, the Synod of Livingstonia opened a branch in Lilongwe.
Not long after, the Lilongwe branch was at loggerheads with its headquarters and there was a breakaway. Now it is in the headquarters of the Livingstonia Synod itself that misunderstandings have erupted.
At the next meeting of the Synod, I suggest delegates should go and sing that hymn, one of whose verses says: “Dango liphya nkhupani kuti mtemwane [A new command I give you that you love one another. If you hate one another people get astonished].
Behind the rift, there is the influence of politics where love gives way to rivalry. Once there was a powerful political party in the north; unfortunately, at the slightest disagreement the leader dismissed now this man next that one until, eventually, the party verged on extinction.
The Free Church produced great leaders of Malawi: Kamuzu Banda of Chilanga, Clements Kadalie of Bandawe and Levi Mumba of Ekwendeni Mission stations, respectively. Do you think you can duplicate the achievement of the Free Church if you are divided, suspend or expel one another? Christ and later Abraham Lincoln said a house divided against itself cannot stand. While you are busy quarrelling and politicking, other denominations are taking over your village schools and reconverting children of your church members. Kamuwuzganga ntha ndi fwiti, fwiti ndi tilinganenge which translate to he that gives you an advice is not a wizard (an enemy); the wizard is the one who says let him be in the same (bad) position as I am.
Five or four years ago, we used to read in British newspapers a term Grexit, which suggested that Greece might get out of the European Union (EU) due to its financial troubles. Instead, it is Britain that is about to exit.
The referendum which voted for Britain to leave the EU has divided the nation sharply, judging by the tone of what I read in The Economist and Newsletter, a magazine of the Royal Economic Society. Some of those who voted Remain blame the BBC for wrongly, as alleged, positioning the views of economists. Others blame the Electoral Commission, in terms of phrasing the question.
In Newsletter, dated April 2017 under the heading ‘Voting theory and the Brexit referendum question’, the writer says, inter alia, Compare the question. Do you still beat your mother? When you are allowed only yes or no answer, then you are blocked from answering.
I will not answer the question because if I say No then I suggest that I agree that I have beaten her in the past.
The prediction of professional economists is that after exit, Britain will become less affluent. Those politicians who are attached to the United Kingdom fear that Brexit might mean the breakup of Britain.
In a foreword to the handbook on education in Scotland, there is a sentence, “Scotland is not part of England but a part of Europe.” In the referendum, Scotland voted for Britain remaining in the EU. If Britain leaves the EU, this will boost the vote of those who want Scotland to quit the United Kingdom in order that Scotland should separately apply for membership of the EU.
Does the Brexit matter to us, Africans? Very much. If something goes wrong with the British economy, Malawi and other African countries will be negatively affected. There are some eminent Britons such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair who wish the results of the referendum were annulled so that the public should be better informed about the consequences of the leaving. I find this view very persuasive. Britain’s place is in the EU Scotland’s place in the UK, the EU in the UNO.
What is wrong with the home and foreign services of Malawi? Hardly a mouth passes without our reading about misappropriation of funds in the Ministry or an embassy.
About 40 years ago, I was working in the Ministry of Education in Blantyre. One of the secretaries there was a jovial Portuguese lady. When she left, she opened a superette. One day, when I visited the superette, I saw a placard on the till. “In God we trust, everybody else pays cash”.
Malawians usually say their country is a God-fearing nation. Their slogan is based on a maxim attributed to King Solomon. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. As a predominantly Christian country, we should be guided by Christ’s teaching that God is our heavenly Father.
If someone is your father, why should you fear him? We should change the slogan to “In God we trust”. Having said this, we should not put absolute faith in anybody.
As one person said, while in spiritual matters a person is saved by faith, in worldly affairs he is ruined by faith. Those who make appointments in the civil service apparently have absolute faith in their appointees but see what those people are doing. It is better to review everyone as a potential miscreant. In God let us have absolute faith; in everything else let us have reservations.