“Media statement in solidarity with our fellow Malawian brothers and sisters with albinism”
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) as a social justice and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in Malawi is appalled with the current abductions and killings of albinos being fuelled by an eschewed desire for wealth and riches. CCJP is saddened and at pains to note that some people, be they Malawians or not, believe albinos have, due to their status, mystical or magical powers in their body parts, that would make someone rich, and in some cases that would make someone cleanse him/herself from HIV and AIDs. Whilst CCJP acknowledges the efforts being made by various stakeholders, especially the media, local leaders and local security personnel, CCJP is worried and unsatisfied with the deafening silence and passivity from other key stakeholders, who in our considered view, seem not to see the contemporary problems faced by albinos as genuine problems to cause much national worry and coordinated interventions and responses. Therefore, CCJP is calling upon government and its relevant ministries (Home Affairs and Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare), FBOs, CSOs, CBOs, local leaders and communities to take up various actions to stop this public menace and defend the plight of our albino brothers and sisters.
- CCJP WORRIES
- CCJP is worried that the Human Dignity of albinos is being denied as they are being reduced to an exploitative functional value of being a source of wealth for some people. Yet regardless of their albino status, which has clear biological explanations, just like many other physiological disorders or disabilities, they are normal human beings and need to have their human dignity upheld and respected by all.
- CCJP is similarly worried that the belief in sanctity of human life for all people is being denied from albinos with the belief that their body parts can be a source of wealth or healing powers.
- CCJP is further worried that in the contemporary world where science and biology have already given us many positive strides, we are failing to see that there is no difference between the body parts of an albino and non-albino. This is so even if we claim in many spheres of life that due to these, we are better civilized than our preceding civilizations. The emerging belief that albinos, due to their status, have inherent mystical or magical powers to make somebody rich or get healed is very surprising and inconsistent with our general hopeful and civilized outlook.
- CCJP has painfully noted that closer relatives and communities of albinos are also abusing the albinos by not providing proper care and in some cases are accomplices inthe abduction cases. We, in CCJP, wonder where our ‘umunthu’, our sense of community life and our sense of concern are gone.
- CCJP is extremely worried that in some strategic leadership quarters of this country, there is deafening silence on the ritual killing of albinos. This commission of silence and omission of action is morally wrong and sinful as it is contributing to the escalation of the human rights abuse of albinos who are no longer feeling safe and are lacking protection from the relatives, communities and the state.
- CCJP observes that the unshaken foundations of lethargy among “loud” Faith Based Organizations, Civil Society Organizations and International NGOs that tackle Human Rights issues for citizens is hypocritical and to a large and surprising extent lacks solidarity with our fellow Malawians of albino status.
- CCJP realizes that poverty and the struggle to get out of it is claimed to be leading to a passive sponge approach of adopting every foreign belief that people hear. CCJP whilst recognizing the debilitating and dehumanizing capacity of poverty, does not, however, believe that ritual killing of albinos is a get way to riches and success. Rather, CCJP places this squarely on the human choice towards insatiable appetite for quick riches, hence the adoption of beliefs like ritual killings of the albinos. Therefore, it is a personal choice and not due to poverty that a human being takes an immoral and sinful decision to kill another in the name of seeking riches. It is a zealous and blind desire and worshipping of riches that is the source of these albino killings.
- OUR APPEAL
- CCJP recognizes and acknowledges the already existing roles of various stakeholders to stop this menace in our society. CCJP further realizes that it is not a responsibility of one person or institution but rather we need a collective and national action to completely root out this problem in our midst. We further contend that riches and wealth are only acquired through hard working, financial management discipline and investing and there are no proven linkages between the beliefs in magic or mystical powers to income generation. As such, no one should be fooled to take another person's life for the intention of getting rich. As our Social Teachings of the Church attest, a basic moral test of society is how it treats its most vulnerable members and that the poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation; in this case, our albino brothers and sisters have an urgent moral claim on our conscience to take action. Therefore CCJP is appealing to the following stakeholders for their prompt and immediate active engagement:
- Relatives to albinos: As direct relations, your primary duty is to protect albinos who are becoming more vulnerable than before and must report of any strange developments to authorities in your area. You must desist from succumbing to this belief that your albino brother or sister has any source of mystical or magical powers for quick riches.
- Traditional doctors, Healers and Herbalists: You must go beyond condemning the ritual killings of albinos in Malawi by stopping cheating desperate people of ways to get rich quickly. Killing people has never and will never be a way of getting rich quickly as proven by your failure to get rich quickly whilst you continue to ply as traditional doctors.
- The Judiciary- From Traditional Courts, Magistrate Courts to the Higher Courts: You are requested to offer stiffer punishments to those caught in this inhuman act of abducting and killing albinos. Stiffer penalties will send lessons that will deter would be law breakers.
- The Police: You have been told time and again that there are a lot of Traffic Police Officers than General Duties Police Officers that could help to combat crime. This misplacement of human resources is, among other things, contributing to the security lapses that are currently taken advantage of by criminals. We appeal to you to redeploy more personnel into crime combating and prevention from the road. We appeal to you to work with communities to build effective alliances for community security and in this case, the protection of albinos whose lives are in danger now than before.
- The State: We appeal to the Executive from the Office of the President, the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare, Elderly and Disabilities and the Ministry of Home Affairs to categorically condemn these killings and make a public appeal that mobilizes the nation and various stakeholders to take action on the killings of albinos. Our government must give us the sense of direction and the commitment to deal with this menace once for all, as we in CCJP strongly believe it has capacity to do so. Our appeal to the state is emanating from our understanding of the Social Teachings of the Church on the role of the state that " Because we are social beings, the state is natural to the person. Therefore, the state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good".
- CSOs/FBOs/CBOs: Whilst committed to other interventions, our voice on this problem affecting albinos, our communities and country cannot be left to clean itself up. We need to be proactive, act in solidarity and raise the alarm, the voice, and the actions that will contribute to the national efforts of stopping this menace. As platforms for citizens voices and promoters of Human Rights, we CSOs, FBOs and CBOs cannot close our eyes and ears on this problem as that will smack hypocrisy of the highest order as in what we claim to fight for in our wider society; if not for the marginalized, the abused and those afflicted. Action now is needed.
CCJP has issued this media statement in support of the good work that the media and other stakeholders have already embarked on in highlighting the plight of the albinos. In solidarity with the rest, CCJP seeks to go beyond these mere reporting into activism. CCJP, however, realizes that for the killings of our albino brothers and sisters to stop, the nation needs multi-sectoral collaboration, effective criminal and justice systems as well as tightened security in our communities and our borders. All these efforts need to be inspired by the love of humanity, the respect of human dignity, the respect of human rights and the acknowledgement of the sanctity of life in all human beings. CCJP firmly believes this can be seen and taken as an emergency to a very important part of our society therefore actions now than later are needed from all of us.
On behalf the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.