By Dr Grace Karamura
One of the models for my degree at Cambridge University was prayer and politics. It was a mixed bag; politics, law, management etc. In one of our lectures, the professor asked which of us believed that prayer can indeed influence and shape world events. Nearly all students from Africa and to some extent those from former Eastern Europe put up our hands in affirmation. Nearly all those from Western Europe and America disagreed. Those from Latin America, the birth place of liberation theology took the neutral stand.
The professor asked each gang as he labelled us to qualify their position with tangible evidence. As the African group leader (another word for having a big mouth), I defended our conviction and stand with the defeated and expulsion of Idi Amin in Uganda. If it was not for the ardent prayers of the faithful world-over and Ugandans especially, Amin would still be the Ugandan president, I said. How did prayer accelerate Amin’s defeat, the professor asked. Through the Tanzanian Defence Forces which invaded and toppled him, I answered. The rest of the class rocked with laughter apparently laughing at these naive Africans.
Western Europe students posed a question. If by prayer, God orders world events, why is it that Africa, the most religious continent is still the least developed (they used backword), most corrupt, starves of hunger, disease, has the highest number of dictators; they annoyingly went on and on. The professor turned to me to respond but gratefully, one of the students from Latin America cut in with an answer that left us all bewildered. God is not a fool, he said. The professor looked at his British time and as he gathered his books to go, he replied, indeed God is not.
Since the Age limit debate began, there are things that have happened, which give the impression that, in certain instances we seem to have taken God for granted. Rather like a tap of water, we seem to turn him on when it suits us and turn him off when it does not. Recently, a group of Pentecostals so called bishops were photographed not only praying for the Speaker, and rightly so, they also cleansed Parliament, which, according to them, was defamed by the age limit supporters. It was apparent that the bishops, probably ridden with ulterior motives, believed that those opposed to the lifting of the age limit clause, should be prayed against, perhaps as enemies of the prevailing peace in the country.
I may be wrong, but I got the impression that the bishops regard the majority MPs, bent and determined to lift the clause, as patriotic, God guided in their move to amend an article that was promulgated by a well-intentioned, brainy, patriotic and experienced Constituent Assembly. Such men and women included among many; James Wapakhabulo, Francis Butagira and Elly Karuhanga (both my heroes – excellent debaters), Cecil Ogwal, Miria Matembe, Yona Kanyomozi, Noble Mayombo, Prof. Apollo Nsibambi, Joseph Mulenga, Adonia Tiberondwa, Rhoda Kalema, the list is long. Perhaps someone could avail us with a full list of the then CA members and we contrast their expertise with the current MPs. Like the 2005 term limit, we want to erase an article which has not been tested by time. Why, because of sheer greed and short sightedness by some of our honourable MPs.
The Pentecostal bishops would be applauded, if they prayed for sanity and Solomonic wisdom to dwell upon the Speaker and the entire House. But their prayers and language betrayed the very essence of what Christian leaders should stand for – impartiality. Ironically God has never been impartial. He stands for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless and the down trodden.
It is one thing to pray, it is another to listen, believe and effect what God is telling us. Nearly in all our past elections, we have had cases where some pastors and, to some extent, some bishops from established traditional churches prophesying in favour of and against certain candidates. According to one of the prophecies, among many, one of the candidates was supposed to die during the elections. At the time of writing, he is still alive! Are such prophecies from God or simply own concocted voices from self-seeking individuals. Can God really be in favour of the death of a candidate to create room for the other? Would God be in favour of amending the constitution and removing a clause that has never been tested?
We have just had a National prayer breakfast. A few years ago, we had a National Prayer Day for which I gratefully applauded the leadership. I even rung a friend to send me a message at exact time the intercessions were to start so that I could also kneel with the rest of Ugandans to intercede for our country. But for every prayer events we hold, do our leaders go back to their rooms, close the door and listen to what it is, that God might actually be telling them. Suppose God told us not to amend the Constitution, would we listen? Or we would simply brand him an opposition sympathiser as is the case these days. It is very difficult to listen to God in such cacophony as we have witnessed in Parliament lately.
Prayer is practical. When the Puritans, a group of English Reformed Protestants in the 17th and 17th Century, settled in New England, North America, through prayer and hard work they laid a foundation for what America is today. They prayed, but got off their knees and set in motion parameters that have withstood time. By their efforts and selfless sacrifice and work ethic, USA is now a leading power. Perhaps that is what Western Europe students meant.
When we hold National Prayer days, why and what is it that we are praying for? I would have thought that after such prayer day, we would be energised to arrest those who have squandered government billions, demote self-seeking junior ministers and clamour to recall selfish MPs. I would have thought that such prayers would open our eyes to the destitute street children on Kampala Road, meagre teachers/doctors nurses, prosecutors’ remuneration. The list may go and on – our dire hospitals, schools, common man upcountry etc. If prayer cannot remind us that we are simply God’s stewards in whatever office we hold, then why do we pray?
Whatever office we hold, we are God’s representative there. That is partly the reason God does not intervene to arrest or annihilate an official who has stolen billions at the detriment of the thousand poor Africans. He will certainly hold responsible the official who should have arrested the embezzler but did not. But that is at the judgment day. In the meantime, millions are suffering. God does not intervene because in every ministry/department, he has a representative there; the Minister, the PS, the IGP etc. As the Pentecostal bishops prayed, I did not hear a hint of prayer for the families of the women recently murdered in Wakiso and Entebbe; didn’t hear a prayer for the IGP and his stretched Police.
I believe in prayer and by all means we should pray and pray without ceasing. But like the Puritans, let us get off your knees and start making our leaders accountable. Could this be what Latin American students insinuated?
The writer is a Uganda based in the UK