Peace by piece: A ministry of sewing

MB pastor works with African refugees to provide jobs, healing

Safari Mutabesha Bahati speaks to Peace Commission secretary Andrew Suderman about the products from the women's sewing collective at the Mennonite World Conference meetings in 2018. Photo: Karla Braun.

“The church must do its job, offering people charity and spiritual teaching, so that a person may be transformed,” says Safari Mutabesha Bahati, a Mennonite Brethren pastor living in Malawi.

Mennonite Association for Peace and Development (MAPD) in Malawi, a member of the global Anabaptist Service Network, supports both through a women’s sewing ministry that includes trauma healing for residents of Dzaleka refugee camp, mainly from Burundi, Rwanda and DR Congo.

This ministry promotes a peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development, and effective, accountable institutions that offer justice for all. MAPD’s goal is to reduce violent crime and sex trafficking, and to improve literacy, especially among women.

MAPD also has an agriculture program to end hunger, improve nutrition and achieve food security,

There are more than 30,000 people in the camp, says MAPD director and pastor Safari Mutabesha Bahati. Women have little means to earn money. MAPD has built a center with capacity to train 25 students for six months in sewing bags and pot holders and creating jewelry. The center supplies both the materials and the market for these products. The women receive 60 percent of the proceeds; the rest is reinvested in the center.

Director Hareri Mamana, Safari Mutabesha Bahati’s wife Mauwa Kassanga Safari and two Malawian women run the program to help displaced women and their children.

The women have often been severely traumatized by their displacement, so many complete a program of trauma healing before sewing training begins.

MAPD has a vision for collective impact—after graduation from the program, the women are encouraged to continue to work together.

Limited by the tools available, this cooperation is nearly guaranteed. However, Safari Mutabesha Bahati wishes for more sewing machines to be able to train more women.

“This shows the love of God,” he says.

Originally from DR Congo, Safari Mutabesha Bahati himself lives under refugee status.

His message of forgiveness and Holy Spirit transformation is well-earned. His congregation, Dzaleka MB Church, offered hospitality when Safari’s father’s killer came to the same camp and sought fellowship. The church now has 18 congregations and 600 members from Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Malawi.

Safari Mutabesha Bahati shared his story at the triennial meeting of the Global Mission Fellowship and Global Anabaptist Service Network in Kenya in April 2018.


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