As we enter this Easter period, the church leaders will have a message for me, and the media will capture it on the airwaves. Well I have a message for my church leaders too –
I have had a few issues with church leaders for the past few weeks. Let me try to explain – I am a church girl. My father is a priest in the Anglican church and I have attended and been an active member of church all my life. I love church. It’s in my blood, it’s an integral part of my identity. And just as church has expectations of me, I have expectations of the church as well.
My first struggle came a few weeks ago, when as activists for Black Monday – a citizen movement against theft of public resources – we wanted to hold a public prayer as part of the peaceful protest against wanton pilferage of our national coffers. A few of us called around to try and get a church – any church to allow us to hold our prayers there. And we were turned down. Why? Because the matter we wanted to pray about was ‘too political’. Were they saving God’s ears or their reputations as ‘not against the state’? I started to question when and how we started deciding what subjects we can pray about in church, and when we need permission to pray in church. Growing up I knew that most churches were open to all who came to talk to God about anything. But the doors closed in our faces, and we sought an alternative venue – because God is everywhere. But for me, the symbol of a church, the practice of praying in the church about this all important subject of theft, was painfully lost.
Fast forward to now – the discussion of the Marriage and Divorce Bill is all the rage. And once again, the church has weighed in to say they were not consulted – even when they know that is not true because I personally attended numerous sessions with the Uganda Law Reform Commission, with FIDA and with UWONET, where we had consultations and conversations with church leaders about the bill. And, when the prelates say they have not been consulted, they mean themselves – ie the men and women of the cloth. Do they think about us, their congregants – do they care what we feel? Do they care what we think about the bill? Or is it only their voice that matters? Have they bothered to turn around and ask what the believers think so that when they demand consultation, they are speaking for me as well?
My church leaders say they care, but not enough to allow me pray to God about the injustice I see in my country – the injustice brought about by theft of public resources. My church leaders say they care, but not enough to allow an honest conversation about what marriage is today and the fact that if I have a view that differs from theirs, I should not be labeled ‘unreligious’. These things pain me about my church leaders.
So where can I go? Who will listen to the cry of my heart, to the struggles of my life? Who will care? Where will I find church leaders brave enough to be real and confront the issues we face today? Where will I find church leaders that are not hiding behind God’s ‘coat tails’, running away from reality?
By Jacqueline Asiimwe