Malawi’s flag war gets support from Catholic Church

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Millions of Malawians have recently been seized with the question of the importance of their national flag. Religious and civil society groups in the southern African country have questioned the morality of a controversial change of the country’s flag.

Only five month after a new flag was endorsed and approved by the country’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, calls are mounting for the Malawian government to revert to the old national flag and abandon an “imposed” new flag.

However, the Government has warned anyone who displays the country’s old
national flag will face arrest and prosecution.

Nonetheless, protests have come from the most unlikely quarters as religious bodies led by Roman Catholic Church, Alliance for Democracy
(Aford), and civil society organisations protest against the change of the flag, reports say.

That change sees a reversal of the original order of the three colors of the flag (black, red and green) from top to bottom. It is now red, black then green. And the political opposition of the southern African nation is challenging the new flag which was adopted on July 29, 2010, in court, making it the youngest state flag in the world.

The old flag, in use since 1964, had a rising sun, whilst the new flag features a full sun to reflect Malawi’s change from a developing to a developed nation.

According to reports, Malawi Roman Catholic Bishops have vowed not
subscribe to the Bingu wa Mutharika government’s new national flag. This follows a statement from the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Father George Buleya, which said the Bishops felt the change of the flag “it’s a waste of resources”.

According to the priests, funds intended for the initiative could have been used in other pressing and important projects like the fertilizer subsidy programme and the rehabilitation of roads.

The National Chairman for ADCCOM, Father Phillip Mumbulu said the change was not necessary: “Considering the current financial situation locally and
internationally, it would not be prudent for the country to embark on the process. It will be a waste of resources which can be better used to enhance other programmes government has initiated, for example, the fertiliser subsidy and construction and maintenance of roads,” the Catholic Clergy is quoted saying.

In a Pastoral Letter, the nine Roman Catholic bishops led by archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye, rebuked the administration of wa Mutharika for among other things failing to provide “proper consultations” on changing the flag.

They tell Mutharika and his government that consultations must give room to contrary opinions and allow for debate and dialogue. “If this is not done, it leads to discontent and can also lead to conflict. Changes that are introduced without listening to the legitimate wishes of the people, have the potential of delinking and alienating an otherwise good Government from the very people it serves.”

But President Mutharika declared that “whether one likes it or not, the flag will change,” “We cannot permanently live in the past,” “The new flag depicts the status of our development” said wa Mutharika when it was launched.

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