Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Accesories to crime in ‘church’

Accesories to crime in ‘church’
July 17, 2007
The Pentecostal movement has lately been embroiled in scandals bringing to the fore the exploitative tendencies in the emerging evangelical churches.

The harrowing tales of Mr. Julius Lukyamuzi alias Kitaka, who is now suffering from damaged anal anatomy and goes around padded, following repeated homosexual assault epitomises the criminal character of your modern day miracle preachers.

These self proclaimed men/women of God have learned their conning trade very well; they preach the exploitative, coercive gospel of ‘giving back to God’ woven around the imaginary powers to perform miracles that excites their gullible audiences. They selfishly enrich themselves while impoverishing hundred of thousands of their followers.

They lure the newcomers into a false sense of goodness and prosperity without necessarily working hard for it. Their preaching is quite similar to that of the Jihad gangsters who impose an extreme interpretation to Islamic teachings.

There are now an estimated 20,000 Pentecostal churches in Uganda which are largely un-regulated. Practically, anyone, anywhere, can set up a church and acquire the ‘Godly’ title of pastor. Before you know it all a pastor who was as poor as a church mouse the
previous day – is now a swaggering millionaire(ss). Their riches (the pastors’) come that cheap.

You do not have to go to school. You do not have to work hard. Just cram a few verses from the Bible, set up a church, crusade in the neighbourhood for the numbers games and you will be a millionaire in a matter of days. There is no legal regime to set the parameters for one to become a pastor or for one to start a church anywhere.

This can perhaps explain why pastors are now riding on the constitutional right to freedom of worship to engage in criminal activity. And the worrying rise in criminality and the dilemma in the church can only cement a growing sense of certainty that things will only get worse.

You have heard about pastors who have forced HIV patients to stop taking ARVs and effectively left them for the dead. Others coerce the unsuspecting followers to surrender personal belongs in exchange for imaginary “blessings”. There are those who have made the lives of married couples hell by poaching on people’s wives and husbands, a practice which hitherto was the preserve of your typical witch doctor.

Sex in the church (condoms are found in some churches) after overnight ‘prayers’, the wired pastors and now sodomy! This is the nightmare obtaining in the Pentecostal movement.

It is heard to understand how an elected government can allow such collective conning of the people to go on for so long without subjecting the culprits to the strict terms of the law.

Why has it taken the police all this long to investigate and prosecute Lukyamuzi’s tormentors? Why should the police wait for those who are wronged to run to the media before they follow up cases?

In the Lukyamuzi sodomy case there are a number of pastors who are named as having tried to cover-up. Under our criminal law any person who helps an offender to escape punishment becomes an accessory to the offence and can suffer imprisonment for three years. But has the police interrogated all the named suspects implicated in the Lukyamuzi sodomy matter.

This is what they call selective justice and it should not be allowed to take root in our society. While the traditional churches are governed under the Trustees Incorporation Act, which imposes a strict regime of accountability, just a handful of pastors have set up trusts to manage the property and affairs of their respective churches in trust for their congregations.

The law provides that the trustees of public associations or organiaations such as churches are responsible for the property that comes into their hands and are answerable and accountable for their own acts, receipts, neglects and defaults. A trustee must never favour one beneficiary at the expense of others. It is his duty to act impartially and to hold the scales evenly between all.

But this is not the case with many of the Pentecostal churches that are a one-man show business. There is no accountability at all. And because such churches are not registered under any law it becomes very difficult to sue them for any civil breaches. In other words they are not recognised as legal entities. Government should enact a law to regulate Pentecostal churches.
NEXT WEEK: The relationship between the state and the church and why churches should pay tax.

The writer is a Journalist/Advocate
0772 43 46 77

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