EDITORâ€”An elderly priest in South America surprised his congregation when he announced that he was not going to give a sermon on any of the biblical texts assigned for that Sunday. Instead, he said, he was going to preach on the high incidence of road t
What, one might ask, does a priest have to teach or preach about road accidents? For one thing, he is not trained to identify the causes and prevention of road traffic accidents, except that all road users, including pedestrians need to learn about and stick to the Highway Code.
In other words, prevention of road accidents should not be left to the traffic Police or the Ministry of Transport alone. The priest had every reason to preach about road accidents because he was called to preside over funerals regularly and had to comfort and reflect on the plight of the bereaved. Occasionally, he had to visit patients wounded or maimed in road accidents in hospital.
Some of the congregation understood why he should be preaching about road accidents. But what startled them was the elderly priestâ€™s insistence that prevention of traffic accidents was part of the Gospel.
He reasoned that the Gospel has to be contextualised and in his context traffic accidents constituted a life-destroying and life- defacing evil that was opposed to the Gospel imperative to have life and have it abundantly. Jesus said: â€œThe thief comes to kill and destroy. I came that (you) may have life and have it abundantly.â€
He was translating that in his context. He further called road accidents a demonic force, for demons do damage to Godâ€™s good creation. One of the reasons traffic accidents in Uganda continue on an acceptable scale is because the population has left it to the traffic Police to prevent them.
As long as this expectation persists, the accidents will continue to claim lives on a large scale. Accidents do happen even in developed countries, but in Uganda whenever you get into a car or taxi you wonder whether you will alight or get home alive. Passenger organisations, if they exist, are weak.
That is why I would appeal to religious organisations â€“ the churches and mosques â€“ to initiate the â€œStop Road Traffic Carnageâ€ campaign. In the past, school children have demonstrated under that banner, but their demonstrations have long since been forgotten and ignored. Doctors and journalists have also tried.
Particularly exemplary in the medical field has been Dr Myers Lugemwa, who wrote an enlightened piece in The New Vision on road accidents. Road accidents have many causes and they include the condition of or on the roads, the condition of the vehicle, and the behaviour or state of the driver.
Traffic Police in Uganda will tell you that most accidents are due to the last factor. A major element in driver error is speeding. Others are unqualified or disqualified drivers, drink-driving, and tiredness.
Passengers in a vehicle should be able to raise their voice if they feel or see that the driver is speeding, driving recklessly or overtaking other vehicles when he should not.
At least concern for road accidents is one thing about Ugandans of all political shades can agree. But you need a body to launch the road safety campaign and maintain the momentum, and I can see nobody better suited to do so than churches and mosques.
Rev Amos Kasibante
Clergy have role in fighting carnage