Uganda: Religious Leaders Should Stop Discrimination Against Christians
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
On 20 December 2014, I had the honour and indeed privilege to attend a couple’s wedding ceremony at one of the Catholic churches in Kampala. There was a wedding mass first and later, the wedding reception. Both functions were wonderful: the celebrant, a reverend father, preached very well; and the party thereafter was awesome.
The bride and bridegroom were very handsome and smart. The two lovebirds smiled endlessly to one another and the rest of us in the congregation. To my mind, this confirmed the eternal truth of the message in the biblical scriptures. Proverbs18:22 says that when a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing, showing that the Lord is good to him. In the bride, the bridegroom found an excellent, befitting companion and received God’s favour. That is why he smiled all the way. Mathew 6:21 says that where one’s treasure is, so is one’s heart. Clearly, in the bridegroom, the bride found her treasure of love, joy and other blessings. I wish the two lovers well. May their marriage blossom with abundant peace and prosperity, with God being their strong pillar of support and comfort.
I now turn, however, to the not-so-nice bit of things in the proceedings of the wedding mass. I was shocked by the show of discrimination, coupled with what I really considered (and still consider) to be opportunism. For the record, while the bride was Catholic, the bridegroom was Anglican. This means that the mass was attended by people, relatives and friends, of both Christian faiths.
Time came for us to give offertories. The celebrant called upon us, without distinction, to give our gifts to the Lord. All of us (or at least most of us) complied, without exception, by giving generously and whatever we could (hopefully), after which the offertory was blessed by the celebrant, who thanked God for it and requested Him to give us more from His abundant wealth.
Then came time for Holy Communion: the symbolic eating of Jesus’ body and drinking of His blood. At this moment, the rules of the game (if I may just call it a game) were instantly and sharply changed. The celebrant did not call upon everyone to eat and drink. Rather, he only invited his fellow Catholics in attendance, saying that, ‘Those of the Catholic Church come forward.’ The Catholics moved forward, while the rest of us stayed behind. I thought this was tantamount to discrimination and opportunism, which, for the following reasons, are completely wrong and unfair.
First and foremost, I do not think either God or His son, Jesus Christ, in whose memory Holy Communion is celebrated, would endorse this malpractice, moreover committed by men of God, in the House of God! Jesus treated his followers equally without distinction. When he fed the 5000 and 4000, He did so for all those present, including the pagans who doubted Him. He did not discriminate against anyone.
I submit that our religious leaders, who are His successors on earth, should do the same to His people, more so, when it comes to renewing our faith in our Lord by partaking of His body and blood in memory of Him. We may have allowed a lot of confusion about the Lord’s ways to creep and settle among us – as shown by the many Christian denominations and their philosophies – but surely this regrettable confusion should not be extended to renewal of our faiths in Jesus, as exemplified by Holy Communion, which for me is a very simple and straightforward matter, because there is only one Christ for all of us, from whose body and blood we all eat and drink. Jesus’ grace and salvation are for all His followers.
I am sure that the almighty God who sits high up in heaven, with Jesus Christ seated on His right hand side, in abundant and eternal glory, shuns and condemns this practice like I am now doing. I therefore, call upon all church leaders, right from the highest seats of authority in the world, to revisit, with a view to reconsider, this malpractice.
Secondly, as a matter of principle, this conduct is opportunistic and certainly wrong, because it defeats all logic. I take it that by all of us giving our offertories without exception or distinction, we were building the kingdom of God together. It follows therefore, that we should all receive the fruits of the joint effort, again without exception or distinction. To do otherwise, is to be mean and selfish – vices strongly condemned by the God we all love and serve. Justice demands that when two or more people embark on a common enterprise, be it good or bad, they should participate in reaping the fruits of their common endeavours. If the seeds sown were good, they reap beneficially, but if the seeds were bad, then equally so, they reap poorly or by way of punishment, as the case may be.
On the contrary, in our churches today, we do the sowing together, but the reaping is for the select few. This is very unfortunate. It militates against good sense and fairness. It is undoubtedly unpleasing to the Lord. I therefore, suggest that thenceforth, religious leaders should allow every person to renew his or her faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, the wordperson means and includes Christians and non-Christians alike. For we should remember that Jesus is the healer who came for the sick, not necessarily the well. This way, we shall be able to build a church that truly stands as one, in Christ Jesus.
I am aware that in order to achieve unity and harmony in the church, our religious leaders have devised joint working groups and mechanisms, serving as centres of mutual cooperation and strategic development, for example, the Uganda Joint Christian Council (I stand to be corrected). These are wonderful and welcome developmental achievements, but I tell you brethren, all efforts under these umbrella organizations will come to nothing, if we maintain the Chinese walls and fallacies that have been firmly built and entrenched in the philosophical foundations and practices of our splinter groups, even on basic doctrinal values like Holy Communion. After merging together administratively, we should go back and remerge philosophically and practically, as much as we possibly can, with Jesus Christ, the firm foundation of the church and whom we all love and serve, being our helper.
Bakampa is based in Uganda. He blogs at www.bbbakampa.blogspot.com.
Image via davidicke