Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue around Kampala
Kampala is the centre of the key aspects of life of Uganda as a nation: political, economic, education, health, not to forget religion. Its population is the most religiously diversified compared to any other part of Uganda. Headquarters of the Catholic Church, the Church of Uganda, the Orthodox Church and Islam are all here. Most of the Pentecostal Churches have their main Churches here. The two national ecumenical and interreligious councils — Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) and Interreligious Council of Uganda (IRCU) have their headquarters here.
The population of Kampala is, therefore, naturally multi-faith and is destined to remain so in the future. Interreligious and ecumenical interactions and living are part and parcel of the life of the people in most of its parts, residential and non-residential alike. One can say that in Kampala, what unites people of different faiths is stronger than what would divide and oppose them to each other.
All political parties in this country have their headquarters located here in Kampala and seek to brand themselves with an inclusive religious mark both in their leadership and membership. In the same vein, Kampala being the seat of Buganda Kingdom, the ecumenicalinterreligious spirit is more pronounced in its population than elsewhere. The Kabaka is king for all irrespective of their religious affiliations and most of the activities initiated and promoted by the Kingdom are inclusive.
Inter-faith marriages are one of the pastoral challenges which | believe is more acute in Kampala than in any other part of the country. A number of couples, married in the church or not, live in this situation and there is a great need of an adapted ecumenical-interreligious catechesis and pastoral guidelines on this particular issue.
In Kampala, ecumenical and interreligious solidarity is most practiced in face of adversities and sufferings: poverty in the growing number of slums, crimes and injustices not to forget death which occurs more often in the city than in villages. One of those adversities occurred recently when one of the Protestant Churches in Kampala was broken down by people claiming to own the land on which it was built. The solidarity which was shown on that occasion from all people irrespective of their faiths was a loud prophetic voice which reminded us of the importance and key role of religion in our society.
On the official side of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, the interventions of the two national ecumenical and interreligious councils mentioned above are most effective in Kampala than elsewhere in the country. Their interventions, often on issues of justice and peace, for example, concerning violation of human rights, governance and democracy, etc., become the talk of the day around the city.
Finally, it has to be observed that although “what unites people of different faiths in Kampala is stronger than what would divide and oppose them to each other”, there is also fear — founded or unfounded — in some of the religious leaders and lay faithful of different faith-communities towards each other. It is also sad to note that there has been some relaxation in the recent past in some of the common ecumenical activities, for example, the annual week of prayer for Christian Unity. Could COVID-19 pandemic be a God-sent reminder of the necessity of strengthening our ecumenical and interreligious peaceful co-existence and collaboration? In fact, residents of Kampala have been more affected by the pandemic than those of other parts of the country.
Fr. Richard Nnyombi, M.Afr.