, BLANTYRE, Aug 19 – A Malawian girl has declined a scholarship to study medicine at a Chinese university over concerns that her religion is banned in the communist country, sponsors said Wednesday.
Chikondi Denemu, an 18-year-old Jehovah\’s Witness, turned down one of three full scholarships arranged by private radio station Zodiak for students who excelled in their exams, station manager Gospel Kazako said.
Denemu "declined a golden chance of her lifetime because her parents were concerned that Jehovah\’s Witnesses are banned in China," Kazako told AFP.
"She told us after surfing the Internet she discovered that Jehovah\’s Witnesses were banned in China and she consulted her church\’s national headquarters who told her she can\’t go."
Kazako said Zodiak had secured the scholarships "to empower the girl child in Malawi, the majority of them poor, vulnerable and victimised".
Denemu, who initially accepted the scholarship, was due to begin her five-year, all-expenses-paid studies next month at Shandong University, where she would have studied Chinese for a year before enrolling in medical school at Central South University in Hunan province.
Jehovah\’s Witnesses, who number more than seven million worldwide, are evangelising Christians who consider modern churches to have deviated from the Bible\’s true teachings, reject modern evolutionary theory and refuse blood transfusions.
China does not formally recognise the faith, and Jehovah\’s Witnesses say members have been arrested and detained for participating in prayer study.
In Malawi, Jehovah\’s Witnesses were also banned from practising during three decades of dictatorial rule by former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who called them the "Devil\’s Witnesses".
Thousands fled to neighbouring Zambia and Mozambique in the 1970s.
The faith was only allowed to operate freely in Malawi after the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1993, but has since sprouted, establishing churches throughout the country.