Atrocities Against Christians in Malawi
YET another chapter of shocking inhumanity against a defenseless minority is being written in the East African country of Malawi. It is a record that reeks of beastliness, of insensibility to any standards of decency or of human compassion. It presents a sad commentary, indeed, on the way humans can treat their fellow humans—persons of their own race and nation. It is a record that should deeply affect all persons who have a love for justice and fairness, yes, of freedom for all, regardless of race, color or religion.
Today, when just one person is made captive by terrorists, that event is widely publicized. People follow with interest the efforts to free the hostage. But in Malawi, since September of 1975, tens of thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses, native Malawians, have been subjected to a rule of terror. Three years ago they fled to Mozambique and Zambia to escape Malawi’s reign of terror. Now they have been forced to return. In their own homeland they have been made the target of verbal abuse, of physical violence and all manner of indignities. They have been robbed of their few possessions and left without the means of sustaining life for themselves and their children.
In all of this they find no relief coming from law-enforcement agencies. There is not one single person among all the Malawian officials to whom they can turn and appeal successfully for protection against vicious attackers who beat, rob and rape at will. They are captives in their own land, the land where they were born and raised. Its borders have become to them like the walls of a large prison. The similarity to conditions that prevailed in Nazi Germany, where thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses suffered imprisonment and death, cannot be ignored. And that similarity becomes greater now, for Malawi has begun to set up its own concentration camps For Jehovah’s witnesses. It has also gone to the incredible point of tearing Christian fathers and mothers away from their children, even though these be but mere infants.
And why all of this? Are these people a dangerous element to the country—subversive, treasonous, plotters of revolution? Exactly to the contrary. They are undeniably among the most peaceable, hardworking, law-abiding citizens in the whole land. The brutality and indignities heaped upon them are for one reason, and one reason only. That is because they are nonpolitical. This is due to their conscientious beliefs in the Bible and the teachings of Christ Jesus, who said that his followers were “no part of the world.” (John 15:17-19) And so, their conscience does not allow them to purchase a card declaring them members of Malawi’s ruling political party—the Malawi Congress Party. Because of this, they are treated as if they merited less consideration than humans normally grant to animals.
A ‘small thing,’ some may be inclined to say. ‘Why not buy such a card and avoid the trouble?’ That would certainly be the easier course. And if it were simply a matter of paying some tax or paying for an identification document or cedula (such as Jehovah’s witnesses in many lands pay for and carry in obedience to the laws of their respective countries), this would bring no objection whatsoever from them. But the issue here reaches the very heart of their Christian belief and position. Christ Jesus told the Roman governor Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought.” (John 18:36) For Jehovah’s witnesses to begin joining political parties of this world would be an open denial of what they claim to believe and stand for. Though they have no desire to undergo suffering, they will accept this or even death itself in preference to being unfaithful to God and his Son.
That is the way Christians in the early centuries felt. You can read in history books of the efforts made by Roman officials to get early Christians to make sacrifices to the “genius” of the emperor, even by such a small act as putting a pinch of incense on the altar as a sacrifice. Of Christians brought into Roman arenas to die, one history says: “Very few of the Christians recanted, although an altar with a fire burning on it was generally kept in the arena for their convenience. All a prisoner had to do was scatter a pinch of incense on the flame and he was given a Certificate of Sacrifice and turned free. . . . Still, almost no Christians availed themselves of the chance to escape.”—Those About to Die, Daniel P. Mannix, pp. 135, 137.
Ask yourself, Which is greater evidence of a good citizen, to buy a political party card and carry it around—something that any criminal or even a traitor could and would do—or to live in obedience to the laws of the land and prove oneself to be hardworking, decent, honest and respectful, loving one’s neighbor as oneself? Even the Malawian officials must realize how ridiculous it is to make the holding of a political card the all-important test of good citizenship. Otherwise they would not frequently deny that this is at issue, or deny that anyone is actually trying to force persons to buy such cards.
But the facts speak for themselves, and those facts are brutal, shocking, sickening. Consider briefly now what Jehovah’s witnesses have had to endure in Malawi during the past decade and right up until today.
[Picture on page 4]
DR. H. KAMUZU BANDA
(KHADI LA UMEMBALA).
MALAWI CONGRESS PARTY.
PARTY MEMBERSHIP CARD
(Below is a translation of the Cinyanja expressions.)
Kwacha! = It is dawn, i.e., Freedom has been achieved.
Khadi la Umembala = Membership Card
Chopereka 22t = Contribution 22 tambalas [25 cents].