Former principal judge Justice James Ogoola has called on government to let religious leaders speak out on Politics saying, the role of the Church cannot be underestimated.
Ogoola made the call at a public dialogue organized in remembrance of the Late Janani Luwum, the then Archbishop of the Province of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire, who was murdered on February 16, 1977, in Kampala.
Born in Kitgum district in 1924, Luwum, a leading voice in criticizing government excesses was killed on February 16, 1977, on the orders of President Idi Amin Dada. He was accused of being in contact with Forces that were planning to overthrow the regime. Killed together with the Archbishop were two government ministers, Charles Oboth Ofumbi and Lt. Col. Erinayo Oryema.
Justice Ogoola says the church cannot be silenced because it has a duty to oversee the rights of all the disadvantaged and those that cannot speak for themselves in society. He added that the relationship between the church and government tantamount to an unhappy marriage.
Quoting Article 1 of the constitution, Justice Ogoola says that since power belongs to the people and not just to the politicians, religious leaders should not be stopped from pointing out what is wrong in society.
“The church has the single responsibility of shining light in the darkened hearts. It is the salt and light of society and cannot keep it. It has to do its work.”
Justice Ogoola says that a government that understands the role of the church in a country has no reason to fear. He points out that governments that try to stop the church are hiding something.
He says governments that continuously try to silence the church end up being remembered in the wrong column of history that is occupied by past leaders like Idi Amin.
Rev Dr John Sennyonyi, the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University (UCU) says the church should not be shut up if government is celebrating the stand of religious men like Janani Luwum.
“Why are we honoring Luwum if we should shut up? If he had not spoken up, would there be a Janani Luwum Day?”
Ogoola’s remarks come after religious leaders have continuously been asked by politicians in the country to keep out of politics. During the recent Presidential Age Limit Amendment debate, politicians came out and asked the church to remain neutral and not take sides.
Former presidential candidate Dr Abed Bwanika asked the church to stand up and fight for the people. He praised Bishop Reuben Kisembo, of Ruwenzori Diocese who a few days ago told President Yoweri Museveni to retire at a function attended by both of them.
Dr Bwanika called upon the church to speak up and follow in the shoes of Bishop Luwum instead of allowing to silence by government money.
Rtd. Bishop Dr. Edward Muhima said that the church needs to be involved in politics because it needs to challenge behaviors of Christians. “87 percent of Ugandans are Christians and we should act in a way that shows we are Christian. But most of us do not act like we are. It is therefore the responsibility of the church to challenge our politicians and their kind of behavior. We need to challenge them for their decisions.”
Luwum is among one of the 20th Century saints that were recognized by the church. Others included Martin Luther King- for his role in the civil right movement. Celebrations to commemorate the death of Luwum will be held in his home district of Mucwini, Kitgum district tomorrow.