By Dr Josue Okoth
In spite the fight against sexually related abuses, teenage pregnancies, corruption and all other forms of crimes, the vices continue to strive and could be getting worse.
News media reported that Uganda has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa with more than 25% pregnancies among registered teenagers every year. The report of 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey stated that 24% of female teenagers are either pregnant or have given birth. Other sources tell us that the commonest abusers of young girls are teachers (67%), fellow students (22%), female teachers (5%) and non-teaching staff (6%). In schools, boys practice homosexuality and girls practice lesbianism in their dormitories.
Students are introduced to devil worshipping and many are drug addicts at all educational levels. Daily Monitor of 13 August reported that female students are now demanding Education Ministry to provide them with contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies. This kind of request from school children was unheard of several decades ago. Maries Stopes reported that 43% of our children below 18 years are accessing contraceptives.
Other crimes such as killings, theft with violence, abductions, land grabbing with impunity are on the rise in the country despite high-security measures. Huge sums of money are stolen by the very people who are trusted with it. Corruption has penetrated every sector of life including policy and law makers and the “Temple of Justice”, the Courts. There are some dangerous groups called mafias reported to be in Government. All these crimes mentioned above are symptoms of something else which is the subject of this article.
These problems are spiritual; therefore we need spiritual tools to handle them. Research supports that there is a correlation between religious beliefs and behavior. Religion is probably the strongest belief system that has existed for thousands of years. Many religions enforce moral behavior through positive and negative enforcement by infusing ‘God-fearing’ element in Scriptures. Religion remains the only unifying factor among different people regardless of the status, gender, age, political affiliation and skin color.
However, it is also clear that religions are different so their beliefs or faith (catechism) are also different but one thing is common that they all believe in a God of peace and love. Take two major religions in Uganda: Catholic and Protestant. Catholic Bible has 73 books while the Protestant one has 66 books. Catholic Church has seven Sacraments and the Protestant has two. Catholics have Mass while Protestants have Communion Service. Basic dogmas and discipline are different. It is therefore wrong to put these two categories of Christians in one classroom and teach them Christianity (CRE). In my view
this has been the greatest mistake ever. As if that is not enough, religion is taught by people who don’t practice their faith and who don’t know catechism of their religion.
Religion is a serious subject and should be taught in classrooms, but not merely in a prayer meeting, fellowship or in a Church service or Mass. Christianity in Uganda collapsed in the 1960s/70s when Government took over Church/Missionary schools and the teaching of proper religion ceased.
Today the youth are moving from one Church to another looking for a convenient one. They are looking for knowledge that they should have got from their catechism classes. ‘General Christianity’ and CRE cause more arguments among the youth. Placing members of the foundation body in the management committees of the schools is just cosmetic because they don’t teach religion and management meetings may take place only three times a year. Besides the school time-table and curriculum are made by the ministry of education.
Because religious education collapsed decades ago, the Christianity we have today is commercialized. It is do as I say not as I do. It is difficult to blame the pastors because they cannot give what they don’t have. The same applies to parents, they don’t know their faith. I do not want to be the prophet of doom, but I believe that unless the teaching of religion is put right, the crimes will rise. If the teaching of religion is put right, a corresponding period of several generations will be needed to handle the current crisis of corruption and crimes. The current attempts through legislation and law enforcement are only handling symptoms.
Uganda is trying to solve these problems by using ungodly means. As Christians, we need blessings from God for our actions. For instance, religions teach abstinence from sex until a lawful marriage. Contraceptives are neither Biblical nor Quranic and God cannot bless it. God’s Commandments have no contradictions and as people entrusted by God, we cannot teach the opposite.
Recently Parliament upheld the death sentence. People who make laws should know that they are chosen by God to whom they are answerable. Today world over this penalty is being removed from the laws. Nobody has a right to remove life, even your own life because you did not create it.
Allow me to say something about patriotism. Patriotism is good but it is not the same as religion; it can never replace it. For instance, Scouting and Girl Guide are forms of patriotism but they cannot replace religion. While religion is spiritual, patriotism is physical to love your country.
Fortunately for Uganda, our Motto says, “For God and my Country”. Let us love God with all our hearts, and with our entire mind, then the love of our country will come automatically.
Putting patriotism first would mean reversing the motto, “For My Country and God”.
The writer is a concerned Christian and citizen.