Ever since my first visit to Malawi I have seen this road sign at the crossroad in the very centre of Blantyre as iconic. It sums up the unusually comfortable balance that the society of Malawi seems to hold between the various forces that have shaped it:
- Victoria Ave attests to the days of British influence (starting with the arrival of David Livingstone on the shores of Lake Malawi in 1859 and the establishment of a British Protectorate in 1891) which put in place much of the legal and physical infrastructure that Malawi still embraces.
- Independence Ave celebrates the “new dawn” (take a look at the Malawi flag!) of Malawi as a modern independent nation-state in 1964 under the leadership of Dr Hastings Banda after a remarkably peaceful transition.
- Haile Selassie Ave celebrates the first visit of a foreign head of state after independence in 1965, and perhaps could represent Malawi’s modern self-confidence in its African and Christian heritage.
There is a feeling following the recent elections, the redirection of NGO giving away from the government, and the tragic floods – that Malawi is at a crossroads. As it continues to face so many material and spiritual challenges – God willing – it will continue to be the peaceful and warm heart of Africa as it constructively weaves these historic threads into a strong and transformational force for good.