By Rt. Rev. Nathan Kyamanywa
Bishop of Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese
God created man and woman in His own image and likeness, making them inseparable helpmates. He consecrated the bond of marriage by so great a mystery that in the wedding covenant the mystery of love of Christ and His Church is manifested.
Marriage is thus a divine institution established by God Himself, where husband and wife come together in a permanent union that is sealed by God and no one should ever put asunder.
It is an eternal union of love, mutual trust and peace between the couples. On the wedding day, the couple freely and without any force, seals a life-long binding covenant in the presence of the Lord and His people. The two are no longer two but become one in love (Gen. 2:21-24).
Remaining faithful to any covenant made freely and publicly brings blessings to those involved, while the opposite is also true. In the marriage covenant, the two are made equal partners and joint heirs to the life of grace. The covenant puts an obligation to both of them to honour and cherish each other always, hold firm to their faith and keep God’s commandments, bear true witness to the living God, and prove themselves virtuous parents before their children.
In marriage, the wife is crowned with God’s blessings that make her God’s dearest daughter, a good wife and mother — one who brings warmth to her home with a love that is pure and welcoming. She is made to be like Mary Mother of Jesus, who adorned the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at Nazareth.
The husband too is endowed with heavenly blessings to be the dearest servant of God, a worthy, good and faithful husband, who, like Joseph husband of Mary, is treated with dignity among God’s people and becomes a loving father to children.
Through marriage, a family is established and recognised. A family is the basic unit where all forms of love are manifested and experienced. Good families produce good children who become good citizens. Society is just a reflection of the quality of families.
The character and behaviour of any person in society, whether adult or young, is to a very large extent a manifestation of the nature of family where one is raised.
Family an institution with changes
Actually, as a shepherd of God’s people, I can look at and interact with a person and quickly tell the nature of family where one was brought up. A family thus leaves an indelible mark on the life of an individual throughout their life. Although there may be exceptions, on the whole that is how it turns out.
The family in our modern times is an institution that has had tremendous changes, both good and bad. There have been many profound rapid changes right from the fall of the first family of Adam and Eve to the current trend where some people are suggesting that the titles ‘mother’ and ‘father’ be deleted and substituted with ‘parent one’ and ‘parent two’.
Many families are uncertain over their roles and even doubtful and almost unaware of the ultimate meaning of family life. Parents and children in families are bombarded with a lot of information, both good and bad, as a result of globalisation.
'Not a good law'
Many are confused and do not know what to do in such circumstances, and so sometimes end up making decisions that disrupt their families permanently. A decision made on a wrong foundation makes the decision maker vulnerable and so liable to manipulation.
I must assure all Ugandans of all walks of life that the Marriage and Divorce Bill 2009, in its current form, is not a good law to be passed by Parliament. There are grave oversights that need to be re-visited and deleted for it to be a good law to be embraced by all Ugandans. Due to limited space, I will point out a few of them.
In the first place, the title of the Bill itself suggests that marriage and divorce are equal and normal. They are put together and thus permissible. The title, thus, undermines the indissolubility of marriage.
Divorce does not have any place in true marriage. Marriage is a life-long covenant never to be broken. Now that it is happening today, this implies that we are missing the real meaning of the true marriage and so the solution is not to legalise the “misunderstood” marriage but to go back to the true marriage.
I have the God-given duty as your shepherd to call all of you Members of Parliament to order. Let the law help the people to remain in marriage rather than divide them. Like other religious leaders, I suggest a suitable name to be ‘The Marriage and Family Relations Bill, 2009’.
One object of the Bill is to provide for the recognition of cohabitation. This is a true destruction of the institution of marriage. If cohabitation is legalised, the next step for Uganda, I guess, will be to legalise lesbianism and gay marriages. Uganda must have norms and values to protect.
If we legalise everything in the name of “that is what the people want and are doing”, then we destroy our very Pearl of Africa.
How can a nation that claims to be standing on God’s foundation legalise a woman and man to live together without being married? I really would like to say ‘Oh Uganda, may God uphold thee, we lay our future in your hands’. If we ever pass this Bill as it is, we will have legitimised a reality which will promote vice instead of virtue.
The argument that some MPs are cohabiting should not be a justifiable basis to pass a law for the country. Virtue should always be our target to achieve, when we fall short, that does not mean that there is no ideal that all of us should work towards.
The other objective of the Bill is to provide for the marital rights and duties. In my view, there are very many international, national and local institutions that have provided for the same.
But rights and duties without love, faithfulness and trust among the married people are likely to destroy marriages more than build them. I just repeat Jesus’ advice that let the one who would like to be the greatest among you (married couples) be the servant of the other.
Marriage not a business
Let the concern for each other overshadow the rights each one has over the other. Whoever is humble and child-like among you will inherit the kingdom of God.
Marriage is not a business. It is not intended for individual property creation. All the property accumulated during marriage is meant to facilitate the couple to serve God better and to stabilise their union and responsibilities.
The intention of God for the married people in relation to property is seen in the first couple when Adam and Eve were put in a perfect garden, where they lacked nothing. The goods of the garden were to help them live a meaningful and happy life, so that they did not hide away from God.
Acquisition of marital property is not an end in itself, but a means of God’s providence for the happy marriages.
Remember that when the prodigal son wanted to run out of the family, the first words were: “Give me my property”. Although he actually enjoyed the property, this enjoyment outside the family setting did not last long. He ended up feeding with pigs. When this happened to him, he reflected and said: “I will return home”..
For those who are separated or intend to separate from your families and so say, “Give me a share of my property”, kindly reflect on this story and return home, there you will receive new robes and a new ring. There should never be separation in marriage for whatever reason and so no division of marital property.
Marriage is a multifaceted relationship, cultural, economic, religious, social and psychological. For any law to hold, all these facets have to be deeply involved and consulted. I can sense some hurry and rushing to pass it, please whoever is concerned in passing this Bill, go slow and be thorough by consulting all of us, especially the Church.
Uganda belongs to us all such that all of us should be given opportunity to contribute to a law which will affect us and the generations to come.