President Yoweri Museveni has said government will engage religious leaders further to find a middle ground on the controversial issue of the proposed policy which will make it mandatory for religious leaders including pastors and Muslim imams to acquire minimum formal education.
He said this Monday after meeting with a section of religious leaders who were attending the Pastors and Evangelists conference in Lugogo.
Under the new National Policy on Religious and Faith-Based Organisations (R&FBOs), all clerics will be required to obtain formal theological training and to obtain a certificate from a recognised institution.
According to Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Fr. Simon Lokodo, the new policy was in the advanced stage of formulation and cabinet is expected to discuss it to pave the way for the enactment of the law.
However, a section of pastors from the Pentecostal faith are opposed to the policy which they said has ill intentions.
“The policy has ill-intentions and we suspect the minister’s motive at this time. We therefore need a neutral person in charge of it,” Bishop David Kiganda of the Christianity Focus Ministries Church Mengo said in January at a meeting of Pastors.
“We are looking at the policy as having come from a malicious source and thoughts intended to crash the Church,” Pastor Simeon Kayiwa of Namirembe Fellowship Church said.
Pentecostal churches are sprouting at a fast rate in different parts of the country, but there have been concerns that majority of the Pastors leading these churches carry misleading messages and that in the absence of regulation, it’s the followers that will fall victims.
On Monday, President Museveni said in a statement: “On the Lokodo proposed policy to have all religious leaders undergo theological studies, we shall sit down with different religious leaders and biblically discuss the issue”.
“Simon Peter had never been to a seminary. He was just a fisherman who was called by Jesus to stop fishing. St. Paul who prosecuted the church was also changed”.
“This is the foundation of the church. I don’t see the big issue here”.
“Of course in the Church of Uganda and Catholic church, they would train people”.
Museveni said there is need to deliberate on whether emphasis should be placed on rituals and formalisation or to take advantage of God’s calling on people’s lives.
He implored Christians to overcome selfishness and follow the commandments that Jesus summarised for them – loving the Lord your God with all heart and loving one’s neighbor as they love themselves.
The President reiterated his appeal to Christians to be an example when it comes to wealth creation and curbing poverty.
“Pastors must help us and teach the people how to transition from subsistence to commercialised farming. I am glad that Kayanja (Robert) and Lwere (Joshua) are emphasising this to their congregation”.
He said must stop considering themselves as the Biblical sparrows which don’t work but are fed by God.
“At the very beginning of the bible, those birds of the air were creatures created. God created us in his own image and commanded us to produce and establish dominion over nature. We must therefore work”.
He said that the NRM government has since it took power ensured there is freedom of worship even though there was a campaign in 1986 to stop “ebiwempe churches”.
“They put a lot of pressure on me. When they brought it to me, I told them that Jesus said, ‘if he is not against us, he is with us.’ (Mark 9:38-41). The Christians were not against us, so I left them”.
On the issue of traditional religions, Museveni advised Christians against condemning other religions.
They must be patient, humble, engage with these traditional people, he said.
“I was able to engage with some of them and not fight with them. It didn’t take long for me to convince them that some of these things they thought or were doing were wrong”.