In Malawi, rights activists and leaders from various religious groups organized a march Wednesday to call for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Some of the hundreds of people who participated in the street march carried placards and banners condemning the conflict in Gaza and appealed for peace to return to the enclave.
This is the first time religious leaders in Malawi have marched against a conflict so far — nearly 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) — from home. Shaibu Abdurrahman Ajasi, chairperson of the Forum for Democracy and Rights Defenders, which organized the march, said Malawi had a duty to join the people in countries around the world who are speaking out against the conflict.
“Enough is enough, and we, too, should stand up and speak against what is happening in Gaza,” Ajasi said.
Their concern, he said, is the killing of innocent people. The Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza has reported that 11,000 people — about 40 per cent of them children — have been killed since Israel launched a major air and ground offensive in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people.
About 240 people were kidnapped and are currently being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. The Israeli military said Wednesday that its troops raided Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, a complex of buildings where thousands of people have sheltered.
Israel has accused Hamas, which controls Gaza, of using the hospital and its patients as human shields for command centers and safe houses. Hamas and hospital officials deny the accusations.
Bishop Joshua Jere, president of the Pastors Peacemakers Fraternal group of Christian religious leaders in Malawi, said, “We see a lot of children are suffering, a lot of women are suffering. I would be happy if soldiers could shoot soldiers rather than kill children or women or innocent people. So, it’s my prayer. I believe in peace.”
Sheikh Muslim Abbas Vinjenje, secretary-general for the Ulama Council of Malawi, a group of Muslim scholars, said that what is happening in Gaza is tantamount to war crimes.
“Our main expectation is a cease-fire in Gaza and that Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the prime minister of Israel, should be taken to International Criminal Court to be investigated for war crimes and genocide, which he and his army commanders have conducted to the people of Gaza,” Vinjenje said.
The top UN human rights official said last week the atrocities that Hamas fighters committed in Israel October 7 also amounted to war crimes. Ajasi said the Forum for Democracy and Rights Defenders will organize another march in the capital, Lilongwe, in two weeks’ time should the conflict continue.