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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

IN THIS 'GOD-FEARING NATION IS IT NOT TIME TO HAVE THE SAME DEBATE AS OUR UGANDAN COUNTERPARTS?

Dear friends,Atheists, secularists and Humanists, HALEA is organizing a public debate on the theme of Separation of Religion and State.The Big Debate is scheduled for 25th March, at Club Obligato, in Kampala city.HALEA therefore invites all those that can attend to be there or send views on the subject that will enrich the debate.We have invited politicians, religious leaders, scholars, students and opinion leaders to share their views.Below is a brief concept note being given to the targeted participants.Hope to meet you there or hear from you, Kato Mukasa, Coordinator, Open Talk Debates ( +256 772- 576635)
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ON ‘OPEN TALK DEBATES’ THIS FRIDAY: 25.MARCH. 2011- At CLUB OBLIGATO (2:00pm -5:00pm)
Topic: Separation of Religion and State. Should Religious Leaders be barred from Politics?
Whereas Uganda’s motto is for God and My Country, there is no official State religion, thus, - at least going by the 1995 Constitution – Uganda is Secular Nation. Secularists argue that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country. However; religious leaders greatly influence the leadership and governance of the nation. The Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) has been actively involved in the recently concluded elections.IRCU for instance met all presidential aspirants to ensure a free and fair election.IRCU also organized  special days ( Feb 11,12&13) to pray for peaceful elections.  We have also noted how politicians use religious leaders to gain power and sometimes offer them expensive gifts using tax payers’ money.
On several occasions, the Catholic Church has asked the Central government to restore a good working relationship with Buganda Kingdom in order to resolve their current stand off. Similarly, the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) is known for among others condemning Uganda Police Force for its brutality in stopping public rallies. President Museveni has too often, condescendingly told religious leaders to concentrate on spiritual matters and leave politics to him. In his sermon last Sunday (20th March), Fr.Archiles Mayanja, of Rubaga Catholic Church insisted that the church can not keep out of politics because it is part of the body politic. We now ask whether the role played by religious leaders is equated to participating in politics.
We also note that some religious leaders have openly participated in politics and yes, in partisan politics too. The late Fr.John Mary Waligo was un apologetic supporter of the ruling party, NRM.The late Fr. Sseguya was an RDC, Imam Kasozi openly supports JEMA party and we know several men and women of God including priest in Parliament and other positions of leadership , many of them on the NRM ticket. Pastors such as Peter SSematimba and Robert Kayanja have openly supported the NRM party. We appreciate the fact that political contests in Uganda are generally marred by mudslinging, open bribery and vote rigging. Uganda is sharply divided along religious, ethnic and political lines and there is an urgent need to foster peace and unity as a basis for real development. Former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion/Beliefs, Abdel Fatah Amor, noted: ‘There are only two problems, when the state owns religion and when religion owns the state’
Given the above picture
·         Should religious leaders be de linked from partisan politics or the body politic as a whole?
·         When does the involvement of religious leaders in the body politic become unnecessary?
·         What should be the role of religious leaders in Uganda’s political setting to day?
POLITE NOTE: Open Talk Debate is a forum for critical intellectual discussion and not emotional outbursts. The debate is organized by HALEA.
-          HALEA: Humanist Association for Leadership Equity and Accountability

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