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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Anglican Priest Supports Kasubi Prayers



Shepherds of Christ or Politicians: Kasubi tombs fire has opened our eyes


Nothing is wrong with praying at Kasubi tombs

Wednesday, 7th April, 2010 E-mail article Print article

By Rev Amos Kasibante

THERE are Christian believers who are questioning the appropriateness of prominent Christian leaders, some of them Bishops from the historic churches in Uganda having led the prayers at the burnt sacred site of Kasubi that held the remains of four of Buganda’s kings and other cultural symbols.

It is not only the leaders of the historic faiths, members of the Uganda Joint Christian Council were also present. Also present was Apostle Alex Mitala, the chairman of the National Fellowship of Born-again Pentecostal Churches. Muslim leaders were also present.

The reason for the scandal as far as some Christians are concerned is the fact that non-Christian rituals are also held on site and the spirits of the deceased kings and other ancestral spirits are believed to be present at the site, leading to the belief that the masiro are not merely a memorial, but a place for the veneration of ancestral spirits. This goes against the belief of some Christians.

Some Christians, like the author of the letter: “Kasubi prayers: Case of culture versus religion” appeared in The New Vision of Monday, April 5, are opposed to the reconstruction of Kasubi arguing that it is a place where “satanic rituals such as devil invocation, pipe smoking, ancestral (spirit) possession, fire altars, worship of the dead, are practised”.

One can sympathise with Christians who hold this view and who would probably not go anywhere near the masiro (Kasubi tombs) or other traditional sites associated with African traditional religion.

They are obeying the voice of conscience. Nor is such controversy or difference of opinion new to Christian life as far as relating to non-Christian traditions, usually indigenous, are concerned.

Examples abound in the New Testament over questions such as circumcision or eating of food offered to idols. We can also cite a few examples from Ugandan cultures. One example is that of the post-funeral rites called Okwabya Olumbe (disposal of death). The old (Tukutendereza) born-again Christians boycotted such post-funeral rites because of the traditional rituals involved some of which did not agree with the born-again (Balokole’s) faith commitment.

However, the Church of Uganda and the Catholic Church have accommodated this ritual with some adaptations, such as the giving of a Bible instead of the traditional spear. But even in such cases, some traditional rituals may be performed that the church leadership may not get to know about.

Another example is the marriage introduction ceremony called kwanjula in Luganda, kuhingirwa in Runyankore-Rukiga or nyom in Luo. Interpretations of this ceremony have changed over time, although old beliefs associated with wife purchase also abide. Again in many places, the Church has adopted this ceremony, introducing Christian elements in it.

It does not follow that certain rituals or beliefs that the Church might not endorse are completely excluded from this ceremony. Many African Christians and Muslims practise syncretism in religion.

When it comes to the institution of the Kabakaship or Kasubi, it should be noted that these are institutions that no one religious group in Uganda fully controls or owns.

They are owned by all the faith groups in Buganda. It is like Jerusalem, which all the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — lay claim to; although in the case of Buganda, there is no attempt to deny any one religious group the right of access. That is Buganda’s greatness.

Four religions that were once at each other’s throat — Kiganda traditional religion, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims — are brought together in their commitment to a common cultural symbol, the Kabaka.
The writer is a chaplain, Leicester University, UK