Throughout the past three decades of ‘peace ushered’ in, Ugandans have lived in the knowledge that while collective peace prevails, an individual’s peace only exists when certain lines aren’t crossed.
The few people who overstepped their boundaries were used as examples to remind us that the offside rule still applies.
The 1995 Constitution is a wonderful document that grants us several freedoms, but mature citizens know that those beautifully-crafted words hold only when you are not flagged offside.
Even scribes and editors know that media freedom has its demarcations; they are not drawn in the sand or inscribed anywhere, but we instinctively know where they are and few dare cross the line. There is a name for that game; it is called survival. They survive, we survive.
Up until now, the only place where the pleasant words of freedom carried in the Constitution have been enjoyed without linesmen standing either side with a red flag has been religion.
That’s where all theories and theologies have been put to the test to be approved or disapproved by believers. The pious, the charismatic, the outlandish and even the outrageous all had their stalls, and believers were free to choose which one to patronize.
That is religion in its purest form; every believer makes his/her choice because the Day of Judgment will be about individual merit, not collective responsibility.
That was until some foxes started hatching a sinister plot to infringe on our freedoms. Suddenly, linesmen showed up on the touchline trying to impose themselves on us with a ‘policy to regulate affairs of Religious faith based organisations (RFBOs).
The interim report that purportedly came out of consultative meetings across the country exposes the proposed policy for what it truly is; a sham, a charade, a work of charlatans ready to sacrifice our most sacrosanct right – our freedom of worship – for the fleeting benefit of donor money.
Imagine a policy that starts out claiming it wants to “root out cults and false prophets” but winds up saying that all religious organizations should be “cognizant of LGBT issues” in order to fit into “modern global trends”.
It would be laughable if it wasn’t lamentable.
First, homosexuality is both illegal and punishable in this country. So, we are faced with an awkward situation in which the directorate of ethics and integrity, led by two renowned Christian clerics (!), is promoting a practice that is forbidden both in the laws of their faiths and their country.
Second, there is no way church leaders, whom they claim to have consulted, can endorse a policy that will soon force them to wed same-sex couples or be charged with discrimination as it is in some countries.
But perhaps it’s about time we focused on the ethical bankruptcy of the individuals pushing for this repugnant policy. Fr Simon Lokodo has, on certain instances, been seen as someone who speaks first and thinks later.
He is the man who wanted artiste Desire Luzinda charged for being a victim of revenge pornography. When that failed, he pushed for the purchase of a Shs 3.5bn pornography-detecting machine. That failed too. This policy is likely to complete his hat-trick of failures.
Pastor Joseph Sserwadda, the man pushing for this policy, is a man whose exposition of the scriptures was much sought-after in the early to mid-1990s.
But somewhere along the way – possibly around 1996 when he stood for MP for Lubaga South and lost – something snapped. A man once known for his spellbinding sermons became famous for his craftiness.
A pastor who says that the Bible is “nothing but a set of rules and regulations” is in danger of losing his saltiness. If he thinks he can use his shrewdness to impose himself on Born-Again believers as their leader, then perhaps his ambition is bigger than his brains.
The tacit truce by which we have lived in relative peace for three decades falls apart when our faith is infringed upon. Just like we have known our boundaries and faithfully kept them, government should also know its limits. Let us worship the way we please. That’s not too much to ask.
Government should rein in on its charlatans at the ministry of Ethics and Integrity before they foment needless religious wars.
The words of Jesus come to mind: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).
The author is leader of Watchman Ministries in Kampala.