From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ENS - Retired Ugandan Primate calls for peace and unity
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Thu, 22 Apr 2004 12:06:14 -0700
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Retired Ugandan Primate calls for peace and unity
[ENS] Sexual violence, large-scale displacement, child abduction, and
HIV/AIDS are just some of the devastating issues that the people of Uganda,
especially in the north, have been facing for nearly 19 years.
While on retreat at Virginia Theological Seminary, the former Archbishop of
Uganda, Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo, spoke to ENS's Matthew Davies about
some of the challenges of his nine-year archbishopric and how the church
strives to be a model for peace and reconciliation for all God's people.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey described Nkoyoyo as "a warm
and open personality" with a "firm and loyal commitment to Jesus Christ"
adding that he has "served the Church of Uganda and the Anglican Communion
with distinction and devotion."
DAVIES: Civil unrest and fighting have wreaked havoc in the northern parts
of Uganda for about 19 years now. What are the sorts of problems that
people encounter there?
NKOYOYO: The problem is that the leader of that group [Lord's Resistance
Army] has no agenda. If he had an agenda it would help the government and
the church to solve that problem. Nobody knows what he is fighting for.
First we thought there would be fighting for 5 years, and now it is 18
yearsNow they are starting to invade other areas like Lira. It is
difficult for us as a church and the people of Uganda to know how to solve
that problem because the government has tried.
This war started about 19 years ago with a lady called [Alice] Lakwena. She
behaved like a mad woman and misled thepeople of that region. She told
them that they can fight without guns and that if they rub some oil on
their bodies and someone throws a grenade against them they will not be
hurt. And of course many people died. People in that region have run away
and are in camps. I have visited them many times. One of the camps which I
visited accommodated about 30,000 people. But that man who leads that group
has said that he is going to kill the bishops who go to talk to them.
The government is trying to talk and it's difficult to talk because they
don't know who to talk to. You don't see them. About six months ago the LRA
said they were going to talk to the government and the government officials
were there ready to talk, but they didn't come.
DAVIES: So what needs to be done to find a peaceful solution?
NKOYOYO: I don't know because it's difficult to negotiate with them and
many of the schools are closed and the churches are not functioning now, so
the children are not being educated.
DAVIES: What more could the international community do to help the situation?
NKOYOYO: Maybe it would help if they were to send soldiers to Uganda,
because a lot of the soldiers from the government have lost their morale
because they have been fighting for 18 years... There is no point in
forcing them to fight as it's in vain...
DAVIES: How did you encourage your church to be outspoken and educate
people about the risks of HIV/AIDS?
NKOYOYO: The church and the government are working together and I thank God
for that. There are two or three problems which are causing AIDS. Polygamy,
where men have two or three wives. This is a problem because they are not
faithful to their partners. Another thing was syringes. Here in the US if
you inject someone you only use the syringe once, but in Africa sometimes
you'd use one syringe for about 10 people. And another thing was that we
had no blood bank for a long time and it became difficult to get blood.
Anyone who needed to get blood would often ask their brothers or sisters,
and there was no testing. It caused a lot of problems.
The church and the government are educating. When we watch our TV there is
a lot of information about AIDS and also on our radio. And when you go
along our roads there are big signs telling people to be careful. So, the
number of people infected with AIDS is going down because of the education.
DAVIES: How do the different faith communities work together?
NKOYOYO: In Uganda we have what we call an interreligious council, which
brings together Roman Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Orthodox, Presbyterian,
Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal...We meet and talk about how we can
help our people. And another thing we have is UGCC [Ugandan Church
Christian Council]...We talk about the common problems which we are facing
as a country.
DAVIES: How does it feel to be retired? You appear so young!
NKOYOYO: No, I'm an old man [laugh]. I feel good because when you are a
bishop or archbishop everyone is criticizing you, but now I am a free man.
DAVIES: What are your plans for the future?
NKOYOYO: Preaching the word of God. There is an organization called African
Evangelistic Enterprises and we started another organization called the
Brotherhood of St. Andrew. We are working with them to preach the word of
God. Apart from that I am looking after children; orphans. We have 106
orphans and most of them were on the street and we persuaded them to leave.
Now they have a home...
Now what we need to do is raise funds to buy chairs. I want to buy about a
thousand chairs because then I can rent them out and look after the
orphans. If I have a thousand chairs I can get about $300 every weekend.
DAVIES: So is it your responsibility to feed and clothe the orphans?
DAVIES: And is $300 enough to feed and clothe 106 orphans every week?
NKOYOYO: No, it's not enough but it helps because we get some food from an
organization called "Feed the Child."
DAVIES: Is there anything else you would like to add?
NKOYOYO: What we need now is one another. We need one another, we love one
another, we need one another...I want to ask the Christians of this country
to be united. That is what I have been saying to friends wherever I go. You
have these differences but you need to be united...Even though there is a
misunderstanding in the Episcopal Church I think people should stay and
talk, but the problem is that they don't like to listen...We need to say
that we are working in the name of God and not to run away.
Some facts about Uganda:
The current conflict in northern Uganda began soon after the National
Resistance Army (NRA) of President Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986.
Remnants of the previous government's forces fled into northern Uganda and
southern Sudan and formed the Ugandan People's Democratic Army (UPDA).
Several splinter groups began emerging out of the UPDA. The rebels of the
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), who seek to overthrow the Uganda Government,
have spread fear throughout the nation, and the country has recently
plunged into a state of humanitarian crisis, displacing over 1.5 million
people. Originally named the Lord's Salvation Army, the group then became
the United Christian Democratic Army, and finally the Lord's Resistance Army.
The worst victims of the situation are the youth, who are the most
productive age group and the hope of the region. The LRA are responsible
for the abduction of thousands of children and more than 20,000, some as
young as seven, are being used as soldiers, laborers and sex slaves.
According to Human Rights Watch [www.hrw.org], an organization dedicated to
protecting the human rights of people around the world, Ugandan government
forces also recruit children who are intended to provide security for local
villages or camps. Unfortunately, many do not return to their home areas
and are reportedly used to fight against the LRA.
The Church in Uganda [www.anglicancommunion.org/tour/province.cfm?ID=U1]
has a long history of advocating for peace and justice, and generating hope
through its Planning, Development and Rehabilitation (PDR) program, which
exists to mobilize and develop resources with diocesan communities in order
to improve their quality of life.
Over the last few years, PDR's Strategic Grassroots Development program has
responded to the needs of the poor through agricultural and livestock
improvement programs, micro-finance schemes, school enhancement and health
support projects, and peace and human rights programs. The projects
encourage activities such as training workshops and seminars, lobbying and
networking with other organizations already engaged in the promotion of
peace, and human rights and civic education.
[www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/37/75/acns3797.cfm] issued in
March by the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Uganda called for
an immediate end to the violence in northern Uganda after the primate,
Henry Orombi, led the bishops on a tour of the region to witness the
situation first-hand. The statement asked the government of Uganda and the
LRA to recommit themselves to dialogue and reconciliation.
In a press briefing
[www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2004/OCHABriefing.doc.htm] April 14, the
United Nations emergency relief coordinator urged the media and the African
organizations to pay more attention to the issue, referring to the crisis
as the "world's most under-reported story" and revealing that "10,000
northern Ugandan children had been kidnapped in just 18 months and
terrorized into becoming killing machines."
President Museveni last week said he was willing to negotiate with the LRA,
saying he was ready to talk to them directly or through intermediaries, a
move which has been welcomed by United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan
One of the other great concerns in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 20
years has been the disturbing crisis of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Church
in Uganda has been actively involved in HIV/AIDS work throughout the
country and a network of Religious Leaders from across Africa living with
and affected by the disease was launched October 29, 2003, in Kampala.
At the end of 2002, the estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDS in
Uganda was 6.2 percent of the total population; that's more than 1 in 20.
The Ministry of Health estimated 70,170 new infections in 2002 alone and
the number of AIDS deaths totaled 75,290. According to the Ugandan AIDS
Commission [www.aidsuganda.org] however, these figures could be an
underestimate, due to constraints in AIDS reporting and coverage of the
sentinel surveillance system [www.health.go.ug/hiv.htm].
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