KAMPALA – Former Leader of Opposition, Hon Winne Kiiza has argued that the government through its imposture of strict measures on the places of worship is aiming at curtailing the freedom of worship that Ugandans are entitled to enjoy.
Kiiza who was a panelist at a virtual town hall meeting on November 1, under a theme dubbed ‘The COVID-19 Global political responses: What are the benefits, costs and implications?’ shared that COVID-19 has created a platform where the government can curtail and destroy the places of worship in Uganda by branding them super spreaders, something that has not been scientifically proven.
According to the former LoP, the guidelines like those imposed on different sectors like places of worship were just cosmetic and they only served to curtail a certain population.
She revealed that in a country like Uganda that does not have a robust social security system, locking down the country is like killing people yet Ugandans still needed to engage in this discussion.
“Some places are super-spreaders than churches themselves. I think the devil is in control, it has taken up space and as leaders, religious leaders need to take up the mantle and defend our country. Uganda’s motto is ‘For God and My Country’ and I would really feel that,” she said.
Ms Kiiza added that Ugandans believe a lot is happening without their input and their representatives have somehow betrayed them.
The other panelists included Simon Senyonga a lawyer and Ms Emily Burns a Republican and Congressional Candidate for Massachusetts 4th Congressional District.
According to Senyonga, People are seeking alternative information that restores hope to them, and this would be from the places of worship since these are the voice of hope and guidance to the nations.
Mr Senyonga believes that what is happening right now is that spaces are being curtailed and there is a serious whip being cracked on civil society spaces in Uganda.
“Freedom of worship does not come alone, it comes with freedom of assembly, expression and other complementary rights. Places of worship have to be the voice advocating for the fundamental human rights of the nationals,” he said.
He added that freedom of worship is tied to freedom of life.
“When you say you are keeping me outside places of worship, this means I cannot fundamentally enjoy what gives me dignity and that is why we are saying the various covid restrictions being imposed on the places of worship have to be resisted by all means.”
Mr Senyonga explained that the role of the church right now in pushing for policy discussion should be in resisting medical tyrannical tendencies that want to impose vaccine and mask mandates.
Uganda has had a history of the government strategically persecuting places of worship. In 2018, a law called Religious and Faith Organisations Policy was designed in Uganda. The idea of that policy was that the government wanted places of worship to parrot government programs and dictate levels of education for pastors, a move that would see government programs replacing the gospel.
“As a nation, we ought to seek the supreme divine power of God through Christ to guide the nation in everything that we do. We should be able to know that our freedom of worship is inherent and we have to defend it with all we can.”
Emilly Burns, Republican and Congressional Candidate for Massachusetts 4th Congressional District said the lockdowns mandates are to benefit the rich and affect the poor but if governments looked at the entirety of these measures, they would be able to weigh them and see how to deal with them.
She explained that there is no overall impact in the effectiveness of the lockdown, something that calls for people to make their own decisions as opposed to being locked down.
“Shutting down the country is bizarre, it limits people from making their own choices. I think it is arbitrary for the government to close places of worship and no other places but. The pandemic is not going away and vaccines don’t prevent infections, so are we going to keep places of worship closed forever?”
Ms Burns believes that keeping people out of the church as a means of stopping spread is not sustainable because people are going out in other places.
“The bizarre restrictions cannot be kept forever. I don’t think there is a reasonable medical stand for continued closure at this point. There is no statistical significance in between vaccinated and unvaccinated in outcomes of infection,” she said.