While working on his tomato farm in Blantyre, a district in southern Malawi, Peter Kamwendo listens to a Kuwala FM radio program meant to raise awareness of COVID-19 and religious tolerance.

Kamwendo, a parishioner in Chikwawa, told Catholic News Service the Catholic radio station allows him to find out what is going on in local communities and across the country without having to browse the internet on his smartphone. He also said the station ensures parishioners are well-versed in in church teachings.

“We have very many false preachers in our areas who give us false teachings,” he said. “But we’ll now rely on our radio station for spiritual nourishment and other teachings.”

“We are enjoying the programs because they are entertaining and educative,” the 45-year-old said in Chichewa, his language. “But the most important message is that of Jesus Christ. The church is spreading the word of God through the radio station, and the message is transforming our lives.”

Kamwendo’s feelings are mirrored across the Archdiocese of Blantyre and surrounding areas of more than 2.5 million Christian listeners. The newly founded radio station serves as a tool of evangelization with a particular focus on catechetical programs, social and pastoral challenges.

Father Frank Mwinganyama, communications coordinator in the Archdiocese of Blantyre, told CNS the radio is also meant to benefit and educate young people, who need good morals and spiritual guidance. During the COVID-19 crisis, the radio is sending out prevention messages to communities, but it also offers programs to develop the spiritual gifts of young people as well as Bible studies and interactive discussions, said Mwinganyama.

He said it is the fourth regional Catholic radio station in Malawi. Rural communities are particularly grateful the church chose to broadcast programs in the languages of each region, since other radio stations in the country transmit in English, which is not understandable in many rural communities.

Father Alfred Chaima of the Archdiocese of Blantyre said Kuwala FM, whose name means light in the Chichewa language, was using local dialects to ensure that parishioners receive grow in relationship with Jesus, since not everyone in the area can physically attend a Mass.

According to 2018 census data, 77.3 percent of the country’s nearly 18 million people are Christian; Catholics are 17.2 percent of the population.

“We want to ensure our parishioners are deeply rooted in Jesus Christ through our new radio station,” Chaima said. “We want to simplify catechesis teaching to parishioners and use the new station as a platform for our lay leadership to receive additional training for their spiritual formation.”

Chama said Catholics often look to lay leaders for instruction and spiritual direction.

“We want to provide various trainings to our lay staff and spiritually mentor them because, based on research, they are involved in prayers, counsel youths and nurture children in their areas and lead the ministries that engage others in Christian formation,” he said.

Mphatso Phiri, an elder in Chirimba, said the programs being aired on the new radio station have enabled him to receive and grasp the leaders’ powerful message of Christ and other important topics, especially about COVID-19.

Residents of the region, especially Catholics, share their opinions on diverse topics by calling into the radio station, he said, adding that, “by participating in live broadcasts from their village, residents are able to understand the discussion well.”

“I have learned a lot on how I can protect myself and my family from the virus,” said Phiri. “I didn’t have a lot of information when the pandemic hit us. But now I wear my mask properly in public areas and ensure I limit attending gathering such as funerals, weddings and parties.”