By Pascal Kwesiga and Justus Akampa
As Uganda gears up for the 50th independence jubilee, bishops from the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox faiths have called on spiritual leaders and politicians to advocate for unity and love to promote peaceful coexistence among Ugandans.
The bishops under Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) came together for a prayer pilgrimage at the Catholic and Anglican shrines in Namugongo Wednesday ahead of Uganda Martyrs’ Day due June 3rd.
The historic day is marked in memory of the 45 Catholic and Anglican martyrs who were murdered on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda for refusing to forsake their faith between 1885 and 1886.
The prelates observed that the country is highly polarized along religious, ethnic and political lines.
The clergy, who held two masses with the bishop of Masindi Kitara diocese, Stanley Ntagali conducting one at the Catholic shrine and Kampala catholic archbishop, Dr. Cyprian Lwanga presiding over another at the Anglican shrine partly attributed the country's underdevelopment to disunity.
During his sermon, Ntagali who represented the Church of Uganda Archbishop, Henry Luke Orombi called on religious leaders to use the 50th independence celebration to evaluate the role they have played in the development of the country.
"We need to ask ourselves as religious leaders what kind of Uganda we want to see in the next 50 years and work towards achieving it," Ntagali said.
He explained that despite worshiping one God, Christians are disunited, adding that there is need to put their denominational differences behind them for the betterment of the country.
Ntagali noted that Christians need to draw inspiration from the Catholic and Anglican martyrs who died together for their faith.
Lwanga, during his sermon in which he explained the circumstances under which Mwanga ordered for the killing of the martyrs, said some Christians wonder why the clergy do not practice what they preach.
He said many Christians have failed to demonstrate love among one another yet they claim to love God.
"It is so easy to love God but fail to love each other,"
Lwanga said the example set by the Uganda martyrs when they were bundled up and killed together should serve as a constant reminder of the importance of unity and love.
He said the reason why he called for the preparations for the peaceful transfer of power to start now is because of the current state of affairs with various ethnic groups accusing the other of exploitation.
This, he argued was putting the unity and love among Ugandans at stake.
The bishop of north Ankole diocese that is organizing this year's celebrations for the Anglicans, John Muhanguzi said the church should not take sides on political matters that divide the people.
The bishops later held a closed-door reflection session at Namugongo.