Of Holly Rice and Miracles – Uganda’s economy and integrity at stake
The cyber community has been overwhelmed by viral sentiments suggesting that a Ugandan preacher is selling rice as miracle-power. It is alleged that the pastor offers 1kg for Shs. 50,000, an amount that can buy about 15kg of rice at market price.
The congregation is allegedly told that the rice comes with a blend of miracles that can sweep away the woes of whoever purchases it.
As the public was still reeling from shock over the said “Holly Rice,” Pastor Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral asked President Museveni to tithe 10% of the country’s coffers so that “the curse” at State House could be cleansed.
|“The bible, in Mathew 10:7-8, says: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”|
Besides the rice gimmicks, many of a kind miracle-stunts have been proclaimed by other preachers, especially of the Pentecostal churches. I have been to these churches and I have seen and heard a lot.
In Pastor Augustine Yiga’s (Abizaayo) Church in Kawaala, a Kampala suburb, believers are given handkerchiefs, calendars, water-melons or tea and slices of bread as miracle magnets.
Yiga has also been able to convince his followers that if they don’t tithe, they will not see miracles. They simply follow what he says.
This story sounds quite similar to the one published in The Sunrise of February 10, 2017, about school owners and managers extorting money from Parents in form of masked payments. They levy all kinds of fees – “Special Development fee,” “Askari fee,” “Old Students Association fee,” name it! Many of the churches I have visited in Kampala have similar charges in the name of “choir fee”, “pastor’s car”, “building fee” and so on.
I had a discussion with Frank Gashumba of SISIMUKA Uganda about this and we concluded that although we blame the pastors for using all tricks to get money, the people who go to these churches seeking miracles, instead of seeking God, are actually the ones perpetuating this practice.
“Most of the adverts you see or hear in the media calling people to pray go like: ‘Come pray for a visa,’ “come pray you get a husband,’ and people just follow without questioning,” Gashumba stated. “Some pastors are more popular than Jesus in their churches.”
Gashumba suggested that only about five percent of the Pentecostal churches in Uganda are really about God and preaching the gospel, the rest masquerading in the name of Christ.
“Watoto Church for example has a wing in church for the disabled. I find this realistic. Other churches parade wheel chairs claiming to have healed the lame. This is a gimmick. They rob people as our leaders look on – and it is no news that we have a ‘prophet’ in Kampala none of whose prophesies has ever come to pass but people still follow him,” he told me.
Veteran Journalist and motivational speaker Basajja Mivule (Bbwaddenne) thinks this thing about miracles is professional apt to steal from the poor and escape the wrath of the law.
“Some preachers are genuinely about God. Many are chasing money. When they preach live on radio and television what comes next is telephone numbers through which to send them “mobile money. Ninety eight percent of the churches are personal businesses, serving personal interests. People no longer go to church to pray to God. They go for miracles which don’t even exist,” Mivule told me.
Pastors or Sorcerers
Recently, while appearing on Dream TV, Dr. Joseph Sserwadda, one of Uganda’s renowned Pastors and the proprietor of Victory Christianity Center noted that sorcery-like gimmicks in the name of miracles are a threat to the church. He also warned against conmen and false prophets in Pentecostal Churches.
Sserwadda highlighted shocking stunts that are paraded in the name of miracles.
“You will find a believer vomiting having been fed with detergents in the name of ‘holy oil.’ Then the pastor or prophet will claim that he is exorcising demons and all what the believer vomits is witch crafts,” Sserwadda said.
Whether these are pastors, or sorcerers, it is up to one’s interpretation. Some preachers, however, will continue to parade horrible stunts in the name of the Bible. They will always look and find a line to back up their wild acts.
I was in Senior Two when a big financial crisis hit my family. We could not stay in the good schools our parents had taken us to. A friend tipped me that there was a prophet in Mpigi town who could reverse my woes. Yes! I visited the said “prophet.” To my shock, the prophet told me that my father was the one be-witching me. That he never wanted me to study. Really!
The “prophet” gave me an object concealed in a polythene (kaveera) instructed me to plant it under my father’s chair. He asked me to shout “Christ” as many times as I can’t remember. In church I agreed, but I never took his thing to my father’s chair. There after my father took me to good schools until I graduated, and that is the person the so called prophet was accusing of causing me misery.
Novelist and socio-political commentator Allan Tacca suggests that witchdoctors and the Born-Again pastors needs pagan spirits. However, for all his resurgence, the witchdoctor still faces a measure of public hostility. On the other hand, the pastor is generally (even at state level) approved of. And he has more money, more shrines and more media access. So, not only is his account of the spirit world likely to reach more people than a very similar account by the witchdoctor, but it has been made “respectable”.
Tacca suggests that in their emotionally charged sermons, they dramatize and fill these spirits with “life”. Their congregations, who are about as gullible as Europeans were in Medieval times, are constantly reminded of an army of evil supernatural beings out there responsible for their poverty, ill-health, academic and social failure and what have you.
Threat to Uganda’s Economy and integrity
Sylvia, a road side vendor who sells chips in Bunga, told me that she had not worked the previous night because she had gone to attend prayers dubbed “77 days of Glory” because the pastor had proclaimed a miracle that would see her receive a phone call from the US.
To receive this miracle, the church had asked her to tithe as much as she could. That anticipated phone call from the US would change her life. Sylvia has neither a friend nor a relative in the US. She was asking me if it could be possible for her to receive the said phone call! My answer to Sylvia was No!
The day Sylvia doesn’t work, the person who supplies her with cooking oil gets affected. The one who sells her charcoal, potatoes and other related goodies that accompany her chips gets affected. If we had 1000 Sylvias attending the congregation just imagine how much revenue would be lost.
Many youth and believers spend a lot of time glorifying God in churches instead of engaging in productive activities. How can we rid ourselves of poverty? I am not glorifying paganism here. I have seen people work and also engage in religious activities. The difference here is about how much time we make for each.
I am told that in Rwanda the government discourages lunch hour fellowships because people must work. In Uganda, to the Sunday Service, Morning Glory, Lunch hour, Evening Glory, Overnight, Bible Study and Cell, we have added 77 Days of Glory, name it! When do we work?
The concept of the Pentecostal movement seems to have been hijacked by economic and political forces. Would it not be appropriate for the government to take a critical look at the activities of the Pentecostal churches and regulate them effectively?