Here is another sad story of how being a JW makes people's life miserable:
An 18-year-old Malawian girl, who scored distinction in all the six subjects she sat for during the country's 2009 School Certificate of Education Examinations (MSCE), has turned down a lucrative five-year, all expenses-paid scholarship from a university in China because she is a member of the Christian sect Jehovah Witness, a private radio station who brokered the scholarships has said.
'It's really sad she is made to give up a golden chance of a life-time,' Gospel Kazako, Executive Director of Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), told PANA her e Wednesday.
Through the Zodiak Best Girl Award Initiative, an annual social-responsibility programme by the leading private radio station aimed at promoting girls' education, three Malawian girls secured scholarships to study medicine in China.
But one of them, Chikondi Dinemu, is not taking up the offer because - according to the radio station - her parents are concerned that Jehovah Witnesses are banned in the communist country.
'The parents are worried she may not be able to practice her religion freely,' said Kazako. 'They have even indoctrinated the girl who is also now saying she ain't going.'
Kazako said a team of ZBS officials travelled to Chikondi's lakeshore resort district of Mangochi to convince the parents of the importance of the girl studying in China but they have put their feet down.
'We even involved the District Commissioner for Mangochi to no avail,' said a dejected Kazako. 'But we haven't given up yet.'
Chikondi and her two colleagues - one of them a Rwandese refugee girl who has since been naturalised because of her impressive performance at the MSCE (the equivalent of O-Levels) - were expected in China on 3 September.
'Everything...the visas, the passports are in, we were only waiting for the day of their departure,' said Kazako.
According to Owen Lupeska, ZBS's Head of Programmes and coordinator of the initiative, Chikondi - who sat for her MSCE at St. Michael Secondary School in Mangoc hi - was supposed to leave for China alongside the other girls, Edith Chikumbu and the Rwandese-turned Malawian Mireille Twayigira.
'They were supposed to spend a year at the Chinese Shandong University learning Chinese before proceeding to the Xiangya Medical College of the Central South University,' he said.
Lupeska said initially Chikondi accepted the scholarship at a colourful ceremony in the central border district of Mchinji presided over by First Lady Callista Mutharika and the out-going Chinese Ambassador Lin Songtian.
'But she told us after surfing the Internet she discovered that Jehovah Witnesses were banned in China and she consulted her church's national headquarters who told her she can't go,' he said. 'It's sad; we tried to counsel her but she seemed very much indoctrinated in her faith.'
A Chinese embassy official in Lilongwe, who cannot be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, only said: 'The Chinese Scholarship Council checked Miss Chikondi Dinemu's application papers, that included her faith, and approved her which means she could not have had any problems from authorities while in the Peoples Republic of China.'
During the 30-year iron-fist rule under Malawi's founding president, the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Jehovah Witnesses were banned in Malawi for their apolitical beliefs.
They refused to take part in anything political including voting, putting on political party colours, singing political songs or buying the mandatory Malawi Congress Party (MCP) membership card.
Most of the Jehovah Witness' leaders fled into exile and had their property forfeited by government under the infamous Forfeiture Act.
Jehovah Witnesses were only allowed to exist and worship freely when Banda was defeated by his one-time protege Bakili Muluzi at the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1994, but they remain apolitical.
ZBS, founded in 2005 by Kazako - a former public broadcaster and renowned vernacular poet - launched the Zodiak Best Girl Award Initiative in 2006 'as one way of helping empower women in Malawi, the majority of them poor, vulnerable and victimised'.
By Raphael TENTHANI - Pana 19/08/2010