|Mission Report: Uganda: June 2010|
Missionary Trip to UGANDA—Reported by Emil Hagamu, June 22–28, 2010
Uganda, a land-locked country in East Africa, is unique on that continent. The Catholic Bishops Conference is very outspoken in defending human life, particularly that of the unborn. The government is famous for its “A” & “B” approach for HIV/AIDS prevention strategies (of the ABC strategy - Abstain until marriage and Be faithful to your spouse). Although, lately, the Condom maniacs (the “C” in that acronym) are winning the battle. The Ugandan parliament is typically African. It strives to protect African traditional and cultural values against Western encroachment in areas such as homosexuality and same-sex unions. Uganda is the center of attraction for population control bigots. I set my foot on the soil of this country and was received by the Catholic Secretariat of the Bishops Conference staff. The Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference sent a car to pick me up from Entebbe International Airport, a drive that takes 30 minutes. In me, they saw a true ambassador for life, and, counting on my involvement, they now believe that the Uganda Pro-Life Movement has been rejuvenated.
I flew to Uganda via Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya, where I spent four solid hours at the airport, waiting for my connection to Entebbe. While waiting for my flight to Entebbe, I used the opportunity, which I think was divinely planned, to interview a number of Duty-Free Shop attendants on the widely contested constitutional amendment, which has divided Kenyans into two major groups: those supporting it and those opposing it. I interviewed a total of 21 attendants. All but one person rejected the amendment. The one person who rejected the amendment said that Kenyans were free to express their opinion and that there is no single issue that can be accepted by all people. With a “STOP ABORTION” hat on my head, two charming young people told me, “We are Africans in the first place, and Kenyans the second place. As Africans, coming from the Rift Valley region of Kenya, we profoundly stand for life. Therefore, any program, constitutional or non-constitutional, whose objective is to take away the life of our unborn children must be opposed with all vigor, because it is against God’s will and the African value for life.” [Note: Unfortunately, the pro-abortion constitutional referendum for Kenya did pass in the beginning of August.]
Visit to the Catholic Secretariat
On Wednesday, my host, Fr. Jonathan Opio came to pick me up from my hotel room at 10:00 AM. After taking a brief tour of the city, he drove directly to the Catholic Secretariat of the Bishops Conference of Uganda, which is situated at Nsambya Hill, where I met and talked with some heads of departments. I first talked with Joyce Zako, who is the National Youth Coordinator. She was very happy and expressed readiness to cooperate with whoever will be appointed to coordinate the pro-life activities. I then met Fr. Simon Jude Kanyike, Assistant Director of the Lay Apostolate Commission. He was enthusiastic and felt that my visit would rejuvenate pro-life activities in the country. Fr. Simon took us to the Secretary General, Msgr. John Kauta, whose charming reception was a clear indication that my visit was long awaited. He promised to support any initiatives to promote pro-life activities in the country and to advise the bishops accordingly. As he remembered my previous attempts to visit and conduct pro-life talks in the seminaries, he assured me that he would contact the rectors of the major seminaries so I could come back to fulfill my mission. He suggested December 2010 as the month to run the program. After this talk, Fr. Jonathan and I traveled to Tororo.
Religious leaders receive pro-life message
Young and energetic, Fr. Jonathan Opio is the parish priest at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish and also the youth chaplain for the Archdiocese of Tororo. Fr. Jonathan and I attended a one-day workshop on “Child Protection,” which was sponsored and organized by the District Child Protection Department of Tororo. The aim was to equip religious leaders with knowledge of how they can use their influence and places of worship to foster child-protective attitudes and practices. During the presentations, I was invited to present a talk on the pro-life mission. In my talk, I highlighted the need to protect the rights of the unborn child, especially the right to life, which legal documents like the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights do not mention. Step by step, I explained the origin and development of human life in the womb and the need for parents to welcome new human life with love and thanksgiving. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, and even the government facilitator was moved by my presentation. At the end of the workshop, one of the participants, who works for Mothers Union in the Bukedi Diocese, expressed her intention to invite me in the future to give a pro-life program. She belongs to one of the “born again” faith traditions.
Bankers become pro-lifers
In the evening of the same day, I had the opportunity to give a pro-life presentation to ten bank workers. My talk was centered on modern threats to life, marriage and the family and how those threats have consequences on population, religion and socio-economic infrastructures and cultural set-ups. Contraception and abortion are major modern vices confronting mankind. These vices have a multiplier effect in the sense that they lead to other evils, such as euthanasia, stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual life styles. On their part, the bank workers lamented that their government was not taking sufficiently strong measures to curtail free intrusion of foreign ideologies and practices in their country. Dispelling the myth of overpopulation and the accompanying lie of poverty, I told them that there is no direct relationship between population growth and poverty, and, in fact, the reverse is true. Where there is population growth, countries experience tremendous development in the economy, science, arts and industry. The “small family” propaganda is promoted for hedonistic purposes – namely, materialistic consumption. After a free discussion, those in attendance expressed the need to form their own group and be more involved in various pro-life issues. I promised to give them more pro-life material and, with proper planning, conduct an intensive pro-life training session in the future.
1,530 high school students receive education in chastity
On Friday afternoon, I had the privilege of giving a talk on chastity to 1,530 high school students. Students unanimously pledged to abstain from pre-marital sex so that they could become mature, responsible adults. They said they will strive to avoid environments that lead to sexual temptation and to concentrate on their studies. “Our families needs us, our nation needs us; we shall never let them down,” affirmed students at the end of my presentation.
The Archbishop blesses HLI’s mission
Later, on the same day, I paid a courtesy visit to the Archbishop, His Grace, Denis Kiwanuka Lote. The Archbishop was waiting for me outside the office when I arrived. When I entered, he immediately greeted me in Kiswahili and asked if I was a professor (a joke, I think). After the formal introductions, I explained to him the mission of HLI and my responsibilities as HLI’s Regional Coordinator for English-speaking Africa. On his part, Fr. Jonathan reported to the Archbishop the conditions that motivated him to invite me and also of our visit to the Catholic Secretariat. He told the Archbishop the positive response we had received from the Secretary General and other staff. He thanked the Archbishop for allowing this visit to take place and told him what we had accomplished so far and what we were going to do during the following two days. The Archbishop encouraged Fr. Jonathan to continue, noting that current threats to life and the family were undermining the Church’s teaching on spiritual and moral values. A strong pro-life movement in the diocese, he said, will enable the Catholic Church to provide a sound teaching of Church doctrine on matters of human life and the family. Lastly, he told Fr. Jonathan that he welcomed and blessed the pro-life movement. As Chairman of the Lay Apostolate Commission in the Bishops Conference, he will use his influence to convince other bishops to start a pro-life movement in their own dioceses. We concluded our talk with a prayer and blessing. He blessed my work and the mission of HLI in the world.
2,110 Young Christian Students Receive and Accept the Pro-life Message
On Saturday, we traveled to Mbale town, a two-hour drive northwards of Tororo to give a talk to 2,110 students. I devoted my talk to highlighting
the need to protect, defend and promote human life, especially unborn life. Abortion, I told them, is human sacrifice to the devil, who is a liar and murderer from the beginning. I explained the physical, psychological and moral side effects of abortion. I challenged them to oppose any abortion group, like Marie Stopes, that operate in their country.
Parishioners Vote for Life
On Sunday, I was given opportunity to give pro-life talks at the Sacred Heart Parish Church. At two masses, I addressed a congregation of about 2,340 lay faithful. Underlining the importance of human life and family, I outlined the challenges facing our Church and the Christian faithful today.
I told them that abortion, contraception, sterilization and sex education are being forced into our countries by foreign ideologies that are promoting the culture of death throughout the world. I challenged them to decide to choose life or death - to be on the side of the culture of life or death. All of them decided to stand for life and promote the culture of life and promised to join the pro-life movement in order to spread the Gospel of Life.