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“Living Our Faith:” The Lenten Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Malawi and the Shift to Multiparty Democracy, 1992–1993

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From 1964 to 1993, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda ruled the nation of Malawi by a singular mixture of terror and ritualized paternalism, relying on religious institutions to bolster his own moral authority. In the changing global and regional political context of the early 1990s, however, it was the Roman Catholic bishops of Malawi who challenged the prevailing culture of silence. In the lenten pastoral letter entitled “Living Our Faith,” the seven bishops reproached the Banda regime for its authoritarianism. Relying on New Testament images of Christians as inherently free, the bishops ultimately contributed to the development of representative democracy. Acting not as biased proponents of specific political groups but rather as the champions of government accountability and human dignity, Malawan Catholic clerics and the external rituals and symbols of their faith have attained (at least in the short term) a greater prestige and popular appeal in a religiously heterodox nation.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Florida Atlantic University

Publication date: March 1, 2002


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