Talking one night in Lira with an Austrian man, he commented that the biggest problem he sees in Uganda is a lack of foresight in the significance of the future. He provided the example of a plumber arriving to his house. The plumber would only make fixes necessary to allow the system to work today. A week later the fixes would no longer hold and again the system would need to be fixed. When asked if he could make changes that would allow the system to work for the long haul, like replacing parts rather than just taping over them, his comment was somewhere along the lines of “it works today doesn’t it?”
Whether or not this is the biggest problem facing Uganda, from what I have seen and heard it is most certainly a formidable one.
But how do people live for the future when there has been so much turmoil that the only certainty is today? In America, economists complain that companies are hoarding profit because there is too much uncertainty in the market. These people have had their houses burned and children stolen in the night. How can they commit to an intangible image of a future, united, prosperous Uganda when their image of home and family is so fleeting?
Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic priest and associate professor at Duke Divinity school, expands this problem to other African countries such as Rwanda, Sudan, and Sierra Leone in his book The Sacrifice of Africa. He focuses on the potential of the church to shape a new, healthy image of society and politics in Africa. He points out that the church that was brought to Africa during colonization was one that was invented in the West. He questions the role of the church in certain human tragedies, such as the genocide in Rwanda. The church avoided controversial conversations questioning the political identities that led to the conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu.
Growing up in America, church and state are two separate entities that often avoid each other. However, Christ’s original message was in fact very political. It questioned the authority of the ruling class of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was a call to bring the Kingdom of Heaven here to the real world in every aspect of life, political or not. It was a message to love one another, to care for all humanity.
While the church in Africa may have been introduced by the West, I saw signs that Uganda has already introduced some of its local culture into Christian culture. Why can the church not question politics and government policies and practices in Africa that discourage human rights and equality for all? This was Jesus’ original message, so why can the church not be a medium for conversation on political ideologies that conflict Jesus’ teaching? In Uganda, this could help the people find hope in the future and invest in the present. Jesus’ message was to love one another and to invest in a future that would lead to the an eternal life through God. Maybe the church can serve as a forum for this story in modern day Uganda so that people can have faith in their family, home, and in the hope for an united Uganda.