At Wenela Bus Terminal, and there are buses to every other part of
Malawi, some going to Nsanje, some to Thyolo but they all do not enjoy
one thing that the Lilongwe and Mzuzu bound buses enjoy: Prayer time.
|Ethical or not - a travengelist barks a prayer|
The practice of travengelism is getting more common and looks like it is spreading to other parts of Malawi and some people are worried that the practitioners of travengelism should get ethical.
The buses take a long time to load, hours even and when it finally does and pulls out of the depot, a man who usually looks like any other passenger booms out and calls the bus to order for some prayer time. The preacher synchronizes his message so that by the time the bus gets to Lunzu or Kameza round about, he should get off the bus.
One such concerned person is George Thindwa who heads the Association
of Secular Humanists. Thindwa is a confessed atheist too and just
recently he was in the news after he was booted off one such bus for
protesting against a travengelist.
In an Email interview, Thindwa said the practice of preaching in a bus
is one that Malawians should not accept and he described it as
“foolishness of the highest order.”
“These bus evangelists are achieving nothing and are just mere noise
makers. Their practice main objective is to prey on the Malawian weak
minds. As usual Malawians are so feeble to be subjected to such
stupidity with raising objections,” said Thindwa.
|Tindwa- the man- says its madness|
Sheik Dinala Chabulika who is the National Coordinator of the Islamic Information Bureau also spoke strongly against the practice and appealed for ethics in religion.
Chabulika said started by acknowledging the importance of prayer one travels, but he said how that prayer is conducted is what these bus preachers should carefully consider.
“Prayer should never be an inconvenience, its should happen in designated spaces or open spaces where people should choose to listen, some people are sick, some are tired and some do not believe in God in the public buses.
“Prayer is good but don’t make it a burden to others,” said the Sheik. But the Bible (Mark 16:15) said go ye and preach to all nations, are these travengelists not just obeying God by doing so?
“You cannot preach to a mad man or a drunkard, what if they curse God? These actions of forcing prayer on people can cause some to curse God and that sin would be shared by the preachers,” said Chabulika.
How about the Mosques that use loud speakers to call the faithful to prayer? Is it not the same case scenario?
No, said Chabulika, he said where he stays in Namiyango churches can do overnight prayers but as long as it is happening in designated places, there is no issue.
To Thindwa, time is now for the “madness” to end. “Bus owners or passengers should one day stand up and stop this madness. And indeed it should be stopped. It is easy to see that it is
fraud at best- the so called evangelists demanding money when they disembark from the bus!” said Thindwa.
Some people suspect the preachers of killing an easy living because they always ask for alms at the end of their message.
Some loathe the fact that the preachers always like to remind travelers that the bus is fallible and can overturn; they also love to remind travelers of Satan who they say send his agents to travel with innocent people so as to cause accidents.
For some it is the fact that they only preach on the intercity buses that irks them, they claim the preachers are only targeting the affluent because if their aim was to preach the universal gospel, even those buses going to Nsanje or Thyolo could be blessed with their presence.
In The Caribbean Island of Jamaica, so many people complained against the practice that the public bus company decided to ban the preachers and the head of the company Admiral Hardley Lewin actually argued that the practice constitutes a breach of peace offense.
The preachers protested and said it infringes on their right to religion and expression and they complained against what they called an attempt to secularise the Island.
"They are trying to shut up the gospel and if they do, the devil will take over Jamaica. What kind of message are we sending to young people?" Atchrine Taffe, a bus preacher told The Gleaner
The issue caused a heated debate on an internet forum called nairaland.com with some trashing the practice and some hailing it.
“Our people are very gullible. They just need miracles by whatever means. The Bus preachers usually pray for accident free journey and prophecy prosperity on the passengers and at the end they collect offering. They hardly ever preach a good sermon on repentance all they
do is to manipulate the passengers to give good offerings. Because "God loves a cheerful giver”,” said one arguer.
For some, the preachers are actually a god reminder of God’s word and being, and to the preachers, some cannot deny that it is a source of living; after all if you live by the Bible, you eat by it. The important thing is that the message goes out to all nations, secular or otherwise as commanded by the Prince of Peace.