KAMPALA – On June 16th, the people of Mpondwe to whom I am privileged to belong, faced the wrath of a discredited and evil group of terrorists calling themselves the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). This ADF has been part of the annals of Uganda since 1995 when a certain bearded Salafist cleric called Jamil Mukulu formed it from the remnants of the defeated National Army for the Liberation of Uganda.
Of course, the ADF like another notorious rebel movement – the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) now consigned to the forests of the Central African Republic claims to draw inspiration from “God’s word” as captured in scripture.
This “God” – is understood differently and worshipped by different sects of Muslims and Christians. Of course, the laws of Uganda as captured in the constitution of 1995 guarantee this freedom of worship.
However, although it is still painful to think of the brutality unleashed on innocents at Lhubuhira Secondary School, for this article, I have chosen to address the positive roles that Religions can play in our country’s pursuit of socio-economic development. In doing so, it is my prayer that every Ugandan will rise up and reject the backward interpretation of religious dogma by entities such as the ADF and the LRA.
Different scholars have variously defined socio-economic development. However, the definition given by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs best appeals to me. Prof. Sachs describes it as a “multi-dimensional process” that involves achieving economic growth through “targeted investment in universal healthcare, universal education, modern infrastructure (roads, rail, ICTs, etc)” as enablers of sustainable development.
Europe emerged into the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th century with the Church as the principal architect of thought and reason. It was the Church in Europe that was heavily involved in the promotion of the Sciences in the period just before enlightenment. In other words, Enlightenment was the natural successor to the Scientific Revolution.
By the time of this age of Enlightenment, Islam was already the dominant religion on our East African Coast of Mombasa and Dar-es-salaam by way of Omani Arabs.
Indeed, the first Arabs to come to what is now Uganda arrived at Kabaka’s court in 1844 with the arrival of Ahmed bin Ibrahim.
Thirty-three years later; on June 30th, 1877; the first Christian missionaries, sent by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) of the British Empire, Alexander Mckay and Henry Doherty, arrived at Mutesa I’s court.
Today Christianity including the Orthodox faith and the various Christian denominations classified as “born agains”, and Islam are the dominant religions in Uganda.
Over the years Christians and Muslims have contributed to the development of our country by setting up schools such as St. Leo’s College in Kyegobe, hospitals such as Kisiizi mission hospital in Rukungiri, universities such as Uganda Martyrs University at Nkozi and the Islamic University In Uganda at Mbale. The Roman Catholic Church in Uganda, through the foresight of the leadership of the Uganda National Lay Apostolate, went a step further and in 1983 established a Rural Credit Trust. This trust is what is now known as Centenary Bank.
Many more faith-based Community-based organisations operate in our country helping to ease the education and other service challenges of our villages and parishes.
All these undertakings by bodies and organisations affiliated with both Christain and Muslim faiths are evidence that if properly harnessed and working within the legal regime of our country, religion can have and has had a good and welcome impact on our society.
This impact is felt through the promotion of good ethical foundations and value systems, education, preservation and promotion of brotherly heritage and culture, etc.
Of course in the pursuit of these noble causes, good religious practice invariably always encourages growth in entrepreneurial spirit and so it does not encumber revenue growth opportunities for the government.
Uganda today is at a fork in the road. Before us is the opportunity to finally realise the transformation of our country from a peasant albeit pearl of a ‘nation-state’ into a modern, self-sustaining, and integrated one.
One way we achieve this is by not accepting the indoctrination of abuse of God’s word by confused Salafists and backward Christian crusaders.
The writer is a born-again Child of God, devoted in service to Uganda and Africa.