State restrictions on Church gatherings, introduced as measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, have emerged as a top religious freedom issue in Uganda.
In his statement to media recently, the presidential flag bearer of the Alliance for National Transformation, Gen. (Rtd) Mugisha Muntu said it is time for Church leaders to be brave, speak up and stand up boldly in the face of what he said are “discriminatory” Covid-19 measures enveloping the country.
“We believe in religious freedom,” Gen Muntu started.
“Reverends, Pastors, Imams, Sheikhs, you just need to come out and speak. If you are paralyzed by fear, what kind of God do you represent here on earth? The God some of us believe in is telling us, ‘fear not, for I am with you.’ This country has been paralyzed by fear. Those in power continue advancing fear as a tool for control and manipulation,” he said at the party headquarters at Plot 87, Buganda Road, Kampala on Thursday.
“The Bishops, Pastors, Reverends, Imams, Sheikhs, you must become instruments for breaking and scattering that fear,” he continued. “If you are unable because you are fearful, you are wasting your time in those positions that you occupy.”
Muntu pointed out recent incidents where politicians such as the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. Ephraim Kamuntu and Capt Mike Mukula held political meetings in the church without any reprimand.
“Just the other day, I saw senior leaders of government in prayer houses addressing political meetings,” he said in a firm tone.
Gen Muntu urged that the Alliance for National Transformation is set to back up religious leaders to ensure that “you put the necessary pressure for prayer places to be reopened.”
President Museveni in March banned public prayer meetings and any other gatherings so as to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
“It is wise that we temporary remove these concentration points to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All these institutions, without exception should close so that we deny this virus high concentration. We don’t want the virus to find dry grass ready for ignition,” Mr Museveni said.
He explained that it is in the interest of the citizens’ health that they avoid gatherings which would be a fertile ground for the coronavirus to spread.
A cross-section of Christian leaders have over time claimed that it is unreasonable that some businesses could reopen while churches are forced to stay closed.
They say that churches are able to reduce occupancy, distance attendees and order members to wear masks and gloves to ensure the infection does not spread.