Lilongwe (Agenzia Fides) - "It is a huge tragedy that has never happened in the history of the country. The population is in a very difficult situation", says Msgr. George Desmond Tambala, Archbishop of Lilongwe and President of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi in an interview with Fides, referring to the tropical cyclone Freddy that devastated Malawi in early March, after hitting Madagascar and Mozambique in late February.
"In addition to the casualties, currently more than 600 are reported dead, there is the drama of the missing. People do not know where their missing family members and acquaintances have ended up. Then there is the problem of food and the problem of destroyed homes, while schools, at least the undamaged ones, are slowly reopening", says Msgr. Tambala.
"International aid is arriving as the government has mobilized its resources. Once the emergency phase is over, the main problem will be that of reconstruction from housing to public buildings, from bad roads to collapsed bridges", underlines the President of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi.
As for food, Msgr. Tambala recalls that "we are at the end of the rainy season. Let's see if anything can be grown quickly despite the damage done to crops. It will be a challenge because what you will be able to grow depends on the water you find. In Malawi the rainy season starts in November and ends at the end of April, then the dry season starts which makes it impossible to grow crops. So there is only April left to grow something, perhaps cassava and potatoes, while it is unlikely that we will be able to obtain a crop of corn or other cereals".
Monsignor Tambala underlines how the response of the faithful has been encouraging: "Faced with this tragedy, people have not lost faith and hope. The faithful are coming to Mass even more than before the tragedy caused by the cyclone. They seek comfort from our priests but most of all they offer themselves to help others. I have discovered how most people care about being supportive of one another. From the point of view of faith, the most relevant thing is precisely the rediscovery of the value of solidarity that translates into concrete gestures. There are families sharing what little they have; women joining together to cook food for those who have nothing; collecting collections like the one last Saturday (March 25) during Mass in all the parishes in the country to set up a fund for the victims of the cyclone".
"Another thing I have noticed," continued the Archbishop of Lilongwe, "is that people are increasingly demonstrating the ability to discern between different religious proposals especially from new religious movements led by so-called "prophets"." "Every time a tragedy occurs they make a 'prophecy' to take advantage of people's gullibility. But more and more people are not falling victim to these 'prophets' because they understand that they are people trying to ride the emotional wave of tragedy to proselytize."
Regarding the Catholic Church in Malawi, Msgr. Tambala says that "the Catholic Church proclaims the Gospel and carries out social work open to all. There are a number of non-Catholic pupils and students in our schools, including Muslims. Through contact with priests, religious men and women, some of them freely ask to become Catholic".
Out of 20 million inhabitants about 24 percent of these are Catholics; Muslims are 14-15 percent: the rest belong to other churches and Christian communities, but the Church in Malawi runs an important network of social works, from schools to health centers. "I think without this network Malawi would be an even poorer country. The Catholic Church is a very important part of the life of the country", concludes Msgr. Tambala. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 3/4/2023)