Dear men of God: bishops, archbishops, the clergy and other pastoral leaders, the mufti, sheikhs and other Muslim leaders,
Greetings from the Biblical land of Ethiopia! (ed. in ancient times-now includes Uganda_ )
I have thought hard about how best to convey my message to you all, in the most polite yet candid way possible. I pray that you don't take offense. Before I proceed, I would like to make a small note of clarification. I am not a politician; rather, I am a student of politics.Although I have no interest in active politics, I am not apolitical either. In fact, I am quite political but only in meeting my civic duty of contributing towards better management of public affairs. It is in this light that I am writing to you. I wish to draw your attention to what you all know too well - the rot and decay eating away at our nation, and the appalling conditions of the majority of our compatriots. I know that you know the filth that is today's government offices. You surely know the decrepit state of our state institutions and the near-collapse of the public spirit. You certainly know about the current ruling group's single-minded focus on keeping a grip on state power in the face of dire basic social services. Their determination to keep power is only matched by the dastardly looting of state resources. I am sure you know the avarice and insatiable thirst for personal wealth that characterizes our rulers and their acolytes - politicians and civil servants alike. You surely know about the civil servants who have amassed property they can't account for. I suspect that many of them fellowship with you on Fridays and Sundays; they bring offertory and tithe, and are highly regarded members of the laity. I am writing to you because it seems you have abdicated your duty of speaking out against injustice, against the excesses and infractions of our rulers, and speaking for the poor and less-privileged. The courageous but lone voices of Bishop Zac Niringiye and Father Gaetano Batanyenda are a huge indictment. For being two isolated voices, they are easily ridiculed and denigrated by the coterie of rulers misgoverning our country. Recently, one of your own, Reverend Aaron Mwesigye, chided Bishop Zac and Fr Batanyenda, advising the two to pray for General Museveni instead of criticizing him! Yes, there is power in prayer. I too pray every day. But must every problem, every ill, all wrongs and failings be left to prayer? Surely, the Bible does not say we sit there, pray, and leave God to act. There is so much wrong going on, under your watch, and in your midst. Your conspicuous silence is a grievous mistake, bordering on complicity. Is God happy when you don't speak out against the sheer abuse of public office so evident today; the blatant theft of public funds; and the deepening institutionalized corruption and incompetence that now best define the NRM government? When General Museveni gives you gifts, including big four-wheel drive vehicles and brown envelopes, don't you feel obligated to tell the president that an ambulance to save expectant mothers from avoidable death serves the nation better than a Pajero for a newly-consecrated bishop? If you, as spiritual leaders and men of God, can't muster the courage to tell a president that the priorities on which he expends public funds are wrong, who else will have that courage? Lest you get me wrong, I am not urging you to pass judgment and dispense punishment. That is for the courts of law, on earth, and for our creator on judgment day in heaven. What I am imploring you to do is to add your respectable and influential voices to condemning the many wrongs gripping our country, and to appeal to the moral consciences of those gradually turning despicable actions into normal practices. In the past, you have collectively spoken out against homosexuality and demonstrated a rare unity of purpose in denouncing what you construe as ungodly and morally reprehensive. But haven't you demonstrated double-stands by taking such overwhelming interest in an issue as private as sexual orientation while turning a blind eye to the innumerable public evils and ills that directly affect all Ugandans? If you can find issues of sexual orientation of interest, you surely should equally take interest in the activities of the rich and powerful cabals that are conspiring with government officials to grab public land, reclaim wetlands, and raze down public schools. I wish to end with a small caveat. I did not intend this letter to carry any offensive or disrespectful utterances. Nor did I intend to sound presumptuous. But in the event that a few unwelcome statements slipped through, please forgive me. Should you strongly feel offended, I hope that as men of God, you will find space in your respective forgiving hearts to pardon me in the same way that our creator forgives our many transgressions. Also, as you kindly forgive me, spare time to candidly and openly tell those destroying our country to repent and spare the Uganda's future! I thank you for your kind audience... [The author is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago]
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