KAMPALA – The most unfortunate detail to note is that with the easing of the lockdown, many sectors were priority with disregard of the places of worship. Their review of whether to open was extended to a further date [60 days] unlike the other sectors. Not even an actual directive to opening later but rather a review. How condescending! This only showed the level of ignorance the leaders in the nation behold concerning the significance of operation of faith-based organizations in this nation and what the consequences of stifling their operation in the nation could be.
I found it important to enlighten the nation and leaders about why the operation of places of worship is important and why their opening should be the most eminent issue at hand. First and foremost, at such a time when the crime rates in the country are increasing and many are leaving in fear and stress, not sure if they will survive the next day, it’s important not to forget the roles the places of worship have played as far as averting crime is concerned. Anyone who has congregated for prayers will testify to the fact that they always leave as hopeful and restored people if at all they were at a breaking point or if they had any kind of grudges which could culminate in violence most times, they leave prayer gatherings as changed people.
A study done at The Old Dominion University in USA at the department of Sociology and criminal Justice in 2018 by Melvina Sumter indicated that certain aspects of religious activities greatly reduce the participation in criminal activities. It pointed out that religious activities are associated with self-control and social control of which the level of participation and social support in particular are important as far as reducing criminal behavior. This only shows you that with closure of places of worship, you are simply giving a lignorance criminality since the primary places which restore people from such abnormal behaviors have been kept closed.
The government ought to learn to deal with situations from the roots. Yes, they could arrest and imprison people for decades but the most sustainable solution would be conversion which only happens at places of worship.
Imagine, if that person had been singled out or reached out to before the crime happened, most certainly it would have been a different case all together, lives wouldn’t have been lost but that would only happen with the places of worship open.
Now, let’s talk about the psychological state of people in the nation: we all know that the second lockdown was accompanied with many catastrophic events. May I remind you that: many lost their loved ones, many lost their businesses, many lost their houses and buildings due to loans and many are still struggling to pay off the loans, students are still at home even up to now and the poverty levels have drastically increased. We all know that in Uganda people don’t visit psychologists for psychological support and if at all there are people who do, they don’t account for more than 1% of the nation’s population. Therefore, the only place people get such psychological support is the places of worship. When places of worship are closed, the end result is: family instability, domestic violence, increased suicide cases, child abuse, community violence, theft and many end up succumbing to the resulting stress and all kinds of immorality in the nation.
The report prepared for VicHealth, Carlton, Victoria Australia in the year 2011 in support with the Australian Human Rights Commission by Dr. Natasha Klocker on how freedom of religion and belief affect health and wellbeing, clearly states a positive relationship between religious freedom and the health of a being. A number of possible explanations advanced: religious practices, in particular praying, may help to reduce stress, being part of a religion, especially if it is an organized religion, provides formal and informal opportunities to connect socially with others and to secure social support, there is a strong link between social connection and support and good physical and mental health and religion may be associated with positive emotions and cognitions (e.g. optimism, sense of meaning and purpose to life). All these have been found to be linked to good cardiovascular, endocrine and immune functioning. Religious freedom may also help people cope better with stress and may serve as an alternative to less healthy coping strategies (e.g. alcohol, smoking).
Furthermore, people congregating at places of worship and other forms of religious involvement keeps people physically active, which in turn reduces the risk of disability. Therefore, closing places of worship simply means you are subjecting the country to all forms of abnormal behaviors.
As the country found itself in the midst of the 2nd wave of Covid 19, the government of Uganda imposed a 42-day lockdown which cost many sectors the liberty to operate, of which places of worship were inclusive. It is important to note that throughout the lockdown period, the country experienced devastating economic, social, political and physiological challenges, as well as spiritual backlashes as signified by increased poverty levels, suicide cases, high crime rates, family violence, child abuse, mistreatment of people, starvation, misuse of funds to mention but a few. With all these concerns, the government found it fit to partially open up the country as an effort to reduce on some of the concerns which had become a day to day song to its ears.
As a Christian, I believe everybody’s life is always accompanied with the two polar opposites good and evil, life and death, so certainly the almighty God has given us the will to choose and also urged us to choose life and goodness. He has the power to avert all things but certainly that’s accompanied with the choice you make. So the question is, how do you choose? And the answer is by faith in Him, his power, and the path that He has laid before you.
Therefore, in such a time when the nation has decided to definitely, discriminately and unfairly close down places of worship when all other institutions are open signifies the fact that they have chosen evil and death. Their decision to extend the discriminate and derogatory lockdown sadly shows that they completely haven’t bestowed any kind of faith in God which is the only thing that moves Him and the consequences of that are in plain sight. I want to remind the nation to have faith in God at all times.
The writer, Allan Seruwagi, is a member of the National Christian Students Association.