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Rare sects take Uganda by storm

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th September 2012 05:47 PM

They started quietly. Now, they have thousands of followers under their belt. Sunday Vision’s Carol Natukunda looks at some of the religions and doctrines that have raised eyebrows.

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They started quietly. Now, they have thousands of followers under their belt. Sunday Vision’s Carol Natukunda looks at some of the religions and doctrines that have raised eyebrows.

They started quietly. Now, they have thousands of followers under their belt. Sunday Vision’s Carol Natukunda looks at some of the religions and doctrines that have raised eyebrows. 
 
Legio Maria (Legion of Mary)
They believe in a black messiah. They started in the 1960s among the Luo in western Kenya. Some believers in the Catholic Church claimed a mystic woman was constantly appearing to them in the form of a vision.
 
This woman, Mama Maria, delivered messages about the son of God — or her son — as a black man. She told them to look forward to her son who had come to Africa.
 
They believe the Catholic Church in Rome refused to release the true secret about Jesus being a black man. Angry at Rome, Maria, decided to walk away from those people. She would tread on African soil as a person. Mother and son would become black Africans and bring her message directly to a more receptive audience. Today, believers are estimated at three million in East Africa. 
 
666
During the recent immunisation programme, the sect forbade its followers to take children for the measles vaccination saying it was evil. The group, better known as the Injilli, is operating in Mbale, Sironko, Kapchorwa and Manafwa districts.  It boasts of over 20,000 followers. 
 
Launched in 1992, they believe that the era mentioned in the bible about the mark of the beast 666 is here.  They argue that the current era of numbers (ATMs, car number plates, mobile phones, driving permits, etc) is satanic.
 
They fear taking children to school saying pupil identification numbers (PIN) introduced by the education ministry in the late 1990s is associated with 666. Revelations 13:16-17 says “the beast from the earth forced all the people to have a mark put on their right hand or on the forehead. No one could buy or sell anything without this mark 666. The mark is the name of the beast.” 
 
Faith of Unity 
The founder, Owobusobozi Bisaka, 82, married his fifth wife recently in a traditional ceremony in Bunyoro. That speaks volumes of the sect that endorses polygamy. The group has been in existence for 20 years.
 
Bisaka argues that if men marry as many wives as possible, it will reduce prostitution. His newly wed, Teopista Musasizi, 29, believes Bisaka is a god. The cult that started in the 1980s has over 700,000 believers across the country. Bisaka was formerly a primary school teacher.

Serulanda Ssesamirembe 
The last we heard, this Rakai based sect was under investigation in 2008, following claims that it was making ARVs. While the government probe is yet to publish a report, the group goes on. It claims it wants to build an autonomous city in Rakai district covering Kabira, Kakuuto and parts of Kooki sub counties.
 
Followers are asked to choose whether or not to be buried when they die. If they don’t want to be buried, their bodies will be preserved in a secluded permanent house somewhere in Kabira county. The group is headed by his imperishable glory Ssabayimiransibo Bambi Baaba Baabuwa, a Ugandan who has been living in the US for 18 years. 
 
Mormonism 
While Mormons believe in the Bible, they also believe that it is incomplete and contains errors. In Mormon theology, many of these lost truths are restored in the Book of Mormon, which Mormons hold to be divine scripture and equal in authority to the Bible.
 
They also believe all other churches are apostate. On April 13 2012, the New York Times published an article about a 19-year-old Mormon missionary named Jared Dangerfield who had been in Uganda with an intention of converting as many people as possible. The article claims there are 5,000 Mormons in Uganda, and that the number of Mormon missionaries stationed in Uganda is 120, up from 70 in 2010.
 
Abayudaya - Jews of Uganda
Abayudaya is a word from Luganda for the “Jews. Founded by the then military warrior Semei Kakungulu in 1917, they worship Jehovah, God of Israel. And where Christians look up to heaven, the Abayudaya believe that one day, they will become an accepted part of the international Jewish community in Israel. There are over 1,100 Abayudaya in Mbale, Pallisa, and Namutumba districts.  
 
Way forward? 
Lokodo says one of the main reasons for the religion upsurge is because the traditional churches are not filling the ‘thirst’ among the population. 
 
“We would like people to maintain their faiths in their traditional churches. But we also appeal to their preachers to be lively. Young people want to sing and dance,” he says.
 
Lokodo says the inter-religious council is working around the clock to weed out the cults.
 
Is Government aware? 
Both the internal affairs minister and the ethics minister say there are no readily available estimates of the religious groups in Uganda.
 
“Some come as tourists or visitors and our policy is to welcome tourists. How do we tell their intentions? They end up extending their stay,” says the internal affairs state minister, he adds.
 
“It is when you start doing odd things that we investigate you. If found guilty, you face the law,” says Baba.
Some religious groups start as charity organisations. During the 2009 probe on Ssesamirembe group, for instance, the principal registrar of titles, Edwards Karibwende, said it had been registered with the lands ministry as a charity organisation.
 
Simon Lokodo, the ethics and integrity minister says the Constitution allows freedom of worship. So it gets tricky to stop people from forming their religious groups. But we ensure that we protect people from being taken advantage of or killed like Kibwetere did,” Lokodo said. Joseph Kibwetere, who masterminded the tragic inferno in which hundreds of people died in Kanungu district in 2000, is still at large.
 
“Let us be cautious. If someone is sexually abusing their flock or stopping people from immunising their children, what sort of man of God is that?” Asks Lokodo.
 
 On messages of healing, Lokodo, himself a Catholic priest, says while he believes in prophesy and miracles, not all of it is genuine. “We have heard some people are electrocuted. Sometimes, it is just psychological,” he says.
 
Lokodo further observes that the western world is looking for ways to mint money from unsuspecting Ugandans. “That is why their doctrines are strange compared to those of the traditional churches.”
 
What’s your view?
 
 

Rare sects take Uganda by storm

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