- Speaker after speaker said the Church has a role to play in politics
By Michael Mubangizi
Seasoned academicians, political, spiritual and opinion leaders met at Uganda Christian University’s Nkoyoyo Hall last Friday and discussed the role of the Church in politics during the Archbishop Janani Luwum memorial lecture.
By the end of the debate held under the theme, “Should the Church be involved in politics”, in context of ongoing public discussions on the role of the Church in Politics, it was evident that the Church cannot be divorced from politics.
In his key note address Justice James Ogoola, the Emiratus Principal Judge of Uganda and Chairman of the Elder’s Council of Uganda said that the constitution vests power in all people including “priests, prophets, preachers, pastors and prelates, “Together they have power, duty, privilege and obligation to bring to fruition the expectations, aspirations and intentions of the constitution.””
Drawing from various biblical verses, Justice Ogoola observed that the welfare of humanity is the business of the Church and “As custodians of the people’s welfare, the priests, fathers, sheilks, friars and rabbis, pastors, apostles, prophets, Bishops and Mullahs have a mandate and duty to speak out on issues that affect the welfare of the population.”
History, he said is full of men and women of God/ religious leaders who using their prophetic role advanced the wellbeing of humanity. He cited William Willberforce (ordained priest) who was central to ending slavery in the USA, Martin Luther King Junior a Baptist minister who spoke out boldly against racism and segregation in the USA, Nelson Mandela who struggled against apartheid in South Africa with backing and approval of the Church and the illustrious Archbishop of Cape Town venerable Desmond Tutu.
For their courage in the struggles, all these were recognized and enthroned as Nobel Peace Lauraetes indicating worldwide appreciation of their contribution.
Clean Church politics
Justice Ogoola said that the fundamental objective of the Church’s involvement in politics should be to preach peace, proclaim stability, espousing of the country’s borders and demanding justice for the population.
“The Church must not act as the opposition, persistently critiquing the ruling party. The voice of the church rings most authentic and carries maximum effect when it is delivered without partisanship or bias, when it is motivated by the public benefit nor personal gain or privilege and when it is proclaimed or aired in the open, uncovered by the fog of secret side dealings.”
He said that the role of the Church is to fight sin which manifests in evil practices such as slavery, apartheid, segregation, greed, fraud, corruption, forgery, tyranny, dictatorship, authoritarianism, fascism, murder and genocide.
On his part, Bishop Dr. Edward Muhiima, the retired Bishop of North Kigezi Diocese took the notch higher saying that a church which doesn’t get out into the politics of the nation to straighten it is a dead church, “For one to say that politics is a dirty game and so I will not participate. If you don’t vote or don’t engage in politics, it is you who is dirty.”
He added that the Church should strive for truth and justice and continuously identify with the oppressed.
Quoting Romans 13: 1-2, he said that all authority comes from God and as such leaders should not distance themselves from other authorities established by God.
According to Dr. Abed Bwanika the three time Presidential candidate and leader of People’s Development Party, the present Church in Uganda has not effectively used her prophetic role and spoke truth to power such as churches in countries such as Togo, Congo Brazzaville, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He claimed that some church leaders have lost the moral authority to be the voice of the people because of handouts and gifts they have received from the establishment, “That is sad given the fact that we are here because of a man (Janani Luwum) who stood on the side of the people.”
According to Dr. Bwanika, politics is the exercise of power over others and both the Church and state exercise a degree of power in their work.
On his part, Dr. Livingstone Ssewanyana, the Executive Director Foundation For Human Rights Initiative, he had more questions than answers. He asked;
“Where is the Church in Uganda when people are being tortured and held in detention centers like Nalufenya? When the elections are disputed, when refugee money is being stolen? Is the Church confining itself to its traditional role of baptizing and confirmations?”
Janani Luwum was the third Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire. He died courtesy of a politically motivated murder for speaking boldly and courageously against the political excess of then President of Uganda Idi Amin Dada. In 2015, President Museveni declared February 16th, an annual public holiday in honour of the fallen Archbishop.
The Janani Luwum Commemorative Public Lecture was organized by department of Public Administration and Governance in partnership with the Africa Policy Center (APC), the Institute of Faith Learning and Service (IFLS); and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.