OF ITS IMPACT ON SOCIETY
Hilary B.P. Mijoga
Since the inception of Christianity in Malawi a little over a century ago, no serious studies have been done on the use or role of the Bible in Malawi. However, this situation has changed since the early 1990s. During this period, studies have been undertaken on the role of the Bible in the country. Churches have also produced documents which have manifested clearly the influence of the Bible on current thinking in the church. These studies and documents have revealed that the Bible has been used by the church (as an institution) and individual members for cultural, educational, socio-political and religious (spiritual) transformation. By socio-political transformation, I refer explicitly to the political changes which took place from 1992– 1994, in particular, the national referendum and the general elections, and by religious transformation I refer to issues like the use of the Bible for understanding Christology, in grassroots theology, the Bible as a means of grace, and the Bible as the basis of sermons for mainstream and African Instituted Churches.
History has shown that the Bible's encounter with local cultural customs and practices has led to their transformation. For example, when the Bible came into the country, it confronted, among other things, the African concept of God, ritual practices, rites of passage, and customs. In a recent study on sacraments and sexuality, it was observed that fewer women than men took part in the holy communion. The study showed that cultural practices, including traditional understandings of menstrual uncleanness, prevented women from taking part in this celebration. But after a series of contextual Bible studies on this and related issues, the situation changed. More women then began to participate in the Lord's supper (Chingota 1998: 34–40). In this case, one can conclude that the contextual Bible studies were liberative to women. In light of this observation, it can be said that the Bible had a role in transforming cultural beliefs among the women concerned in this study.
The translation of the Bible into the local languages has also