Kasubi prayers cause debate
Friday, 2nd April, 2010
By Ben Okiror
RELIGIOUS leaders have defended their involvement in the Kasubi tombs prayers last week, which had been criticised by some Christians for the site’s association with ancestral worship.
The prayers were led by Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of the Kampala Catholic Archdiocese, who was wearing a bark cloth sash for the occasion.
He was joined by leaders of the Anglican, Pentecostal and Orthodox Churches as well as the Muslim faith.
Namirembe diocese Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira represented the Anglican Church.
Jonah Lwanga attended on behalf of the Orthodox Church in Uganda, while Zubair Kayongo of the Kibuli faction represented the Muslim community. Apostle Alex Mitala, represented Born-Again churches.
The religious leaders argued that they were only there to mourn with the Baganda and did not get involved in witchcraft. Pastors of some Born-again churches had objected to the presence of Christian leaders at the event.
Michael George Kizito, the president of the Watchman Africa Discernment Ministry, argued that Christians should not associate themselves with the tombs, a place where witchdoctors used to go to renew their powers..
“The burning of the tombs was unacceptable,” wrote Kizito in The New Vision yesterday. “However, there is no way a true Christian can pray to God to rebuild a temple where satanic rituals, such as devil invocation, pipe smoking, ancestral possession, fire altars, ritual cleansing and worship of the dead are practised.”
Pastor Anthony Owalu of Hope Restoration Ministries, while also condemning the burning of the tombs, said it was wrong for the religious leaders to pray at the Kasubi site. “They should have called for a prayer elsewhere and consecrate that place (Kasubi) to God. I would not want to be associated with such a place as a religious leader because of the traditional rituals that are being practiced there.”
Archbishop Lwanga has rejected the accusations, saying his critics were uninformed. He said Jesus Christ asked his apostles to spread the gospel to anybody without boundaries.
He cited Apostle Paul’s visit to Athens where he explained to idol-worshippers that the ‘unknown god’ was actually the Almighty God.
“We were there for a good purpose and nothing about witchcraft was mentioned,” Lwanga said. “We have bishops buried in the church compound, is that witchcraft? Ignorance prompts people to make such sweeping statements.”
Sheikh Hassan Kirya, the spokesperson for Kayongo, said they were there to pray for Kabaka Mutesa I since he was the first Muganda to embrace Islam. “Islam teaches us to pray for the dead and because Mutesa I did a lot to spread Islam, he is more important to us than anyone else,” Kirya said.
He explained that a Koran and the kettle used during the king’s ablution were lying on his tomb, according to the Islamic tradition. “The mosque in Kasubi was the first in Uganda, built in the 1880s,” he noted.
He added that the Muslims who went for the Kasubi tombs prayers were not part of witchcraft or the rituals performed that day.
Pastor Martin Sempa of the Makerere Community Church said he was there to ask God “to extinguish the fires in grieving people’s hearts that were ignited by strife”.
He agreed that there were some unchristian cultural practices by the kingdom but these were changing because of the church’s involvement. “The policy of disengagement is abdication of our responsibility as religious leaders,” Sempa said. “Even the Bible teaches to mourn with those who mourn. A family is a family and if the behaviour of some members may be unworthy, it does not mean you don’t attend family functions.”
The retired Anglican bishop of Mityana, Dunstan Bukenya, said the event was of critical nature and those who denounced the prayers were wrong. He said Kasubi was a burial place like any other. “If a night dancer went to a grave, it would not stop other people from visiting it.”
However, his successor, Stephen Kazimba, who did not go to Kasubi because of other commitments, said he would have first established what would take place to ensure it did not conflict with his faith.
Kazimba last year led a team of two other Anglican bishops and five clergy members to destroy a traditional shrine in a village in Mityana after the owner repented.
He however absolved his colleagues who went to Kasubi, saying they could have gone to show solidarity with the mourners without knowing what else was taking place there.
The Buganda kingdom’s deputy information minister, Medard Lubega, acknowledged that certain cultural practices took place at the Kasubi Tombs.
However, he said, any rituals performed were exclusively the business of those concerned.
“I am a Christian who lives among people of different religions but I do not take offence at their practices,” he noted
Church leaders are encouraged to go where satanic practices are performed to preach the gospel, he added.
He called the discussion diversionary and reiterated Mengo’s call for an independent probe into the cause of the fire.
“Our concentration is on investigating who exactly burnt the tombs.”