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Ugandans yet to recover from historical religious conflicts

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th July 2007 03:00 AM

IN a lead The New Vision article of Wednesday July 4, 2007, Dradenya Amazia reported that blood was shed when five students of Itula Secondary School in Moyo were shot by the Police following a stand-off between Christian students belonging to the Scripture Union and Muslim students.

IN a lead The New Vision article of Wednesday July 4, 2007, Dradenya Amazia reported that blood was shed when five students of Itula Secondary School in Moyo were shot by the Police following a stand-off between Christian students belonging to the Scripture Union and Muslim students.

By Rev. Dr. Fred Mwesigwa

IN a lead The New Vision article of Wednesday July 4, 2007, Dradenya Amazia reported that blood was shed when five students of Itula Secondary School in Moyo were shot by the Police following a stand-off between Christian students belonging to the Scripture Union and Muslim students. True to the summation of the incident by Moyo LC5 chairman Peter Dolo, this was not a strike but a manifestation of religious differences engineered by some old people.

It is unfortunate that the ugly head of religious intolerance has reared its head in Uganda as attested to by the The New Vision editorial of Friday July 6, 2007 that referred to similar incidents in the recent past and argued that the Moyo riot was not isolated.

The gist of the matter is that Ugandans have not yet recovered from Uganda’s historical religious conflicts; a matter affirmed by the district Khadi of Moyo, Abubaker Kokoa in The New Vision of Wednesday July 4, 2007. It is ironical that the conflict took centre stage in an educational environment where principles of academic enquiry, dialogue and respect for the views of others are expected to be promoted.

To make matters worse, Itula is a non-religiously founded government aided school! How can one religious group bulldoze another in a typical government secondary school? There is need to make a diagnosis of the problem before making a prescription.

In Uganda, the secondary school Christian Religious Education and the Islamic Religious Education syllabuses have not changed for the last 37 years and yet the most fundamental issue that can affect inter-school religious relationships is the curriculum.

Although the Christian Religious Education (CRE) curriculum is a joint syllabus between the Roman Catholics and the Anglican Church of Uganda plus other Christian religious groups, there is an extent to which it does not purposively promote understanding, respect and appreciation of the beliefs, practices and values of members of other religions.

Interestingly, the joint Christian syllabus assumes, but does not squarely bring out the need for promotion of respect and tolerance between members of the different Christian religious traditions, a significant problem in Uganda today following research that I carried out in Mbarara in 2003.

Similarly, the secondary school Islamic Religious Education (IRE) syllabus, while having as one of its aims, the promotion of good relations between a Muslim student and his or her Christian brothers and sisters, does not reflect this in the content.

The main text books of IRE written by Quraishy present Christianity as inferior to Islam. What can one expect from students who are exposed to such a religious education curriculum? Can we blame the Itula Secondary School teachers who are insinuated by the LC5 chairman as the elders who influenced the students?

Perhaps we may not fully blame them since they must have been exposed to this same curriculum and they are part of the majority Ugandan populace that falls short of promoting respect and tolerance of other people’s religions but instead are keen on discriminating people on religious grounds, in the civil and public service.

In an era of misguided Muslim and Christian fundamentalism, it is important that the CRE and IRE syllabuses are reviewed. One of the key aims of the two syllabuses can be to contribute to the promotion of national unity and harmony, Uganda’s first national goal of education.

The writer is a researcher on religious education and senior lecturer at the Uganda Christian University, Mukono

Ugandans yet to recover from historical religious conflicts

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