It is very unfortunate that there is increased suppression of political views of religious leaders in our country. Further, there is narrowing space for religious leaders to voice their opinions on the current political landscape which limits their freedom of speech. Although religious leaders are critical players in shaping attitudes and behavior in society, many times whenever they give dissent political views, they are labeled anti-government.
I think it is prudent enough for religious leaders not only to use the pulpit to preach the gospel but also to speak about pertinent issues such as bad governance. The role of religious leaders in the contemporary world goes beyond offering spiritual and moral guidance to contributing informed perspectives to development concerns.
For instance,world over religious leaders have played a tremendous role in advocating for social justice, peace and stability which issues have a direct political connotation.
Last year, during Pope Francis visit in Duomo Cathedral in Italy, he stated that a good form of politics is not subservient to individual ambitions or powerful factions or centers of interests. Should we have castigated the Pope for speaking out his views for the sake of not provoking those in power.
Recently,when Bishop Rueben Kisembo of Rwenzori Diocese boldly came out and requested president Museveni to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to another person, the fountain of honor had no kind words for the “man of God.
Although the Bishop’s remarks were bashed off by the president, it should not demotivate other religious leaders from making their case especially where need be as long as their messages remain nonpartisan.
Religious leaders should not be kept in the backyard only to spectate at political events which could result into far reaching costs to our country. They should however come out to offer advice to our leaders especially on issues which may be deemed sensitive.
We have witnessed the effectiveness of campaigns spearheaded by religious leaders for example the Black Monday Campaign against corruption. Bishop, Dr Zac Niringiye, one of the proponents of that campaign with his collar on, demonstrated that religious leaders too can make a contribution in promoting transparency and accountability. Other religious leaders should do the same if we are to leverage religion as a tool of change in society.
The risk in silencing religious leaders is that we suffocate the voices of majority of the population who confine in them as their mouthpiece.
Why should we wait until things get out of hand then we invite religious leaders to restore peace and harmony in the country? Further we should not restrict the involvement of religious leaders in political debate because by doing so we may miss out on their divine counsel.
Our motto, “for God and my country,” suggests that the supreme being “God” should be factored into the affairs of our country however how practical is that given the increased restriction of the free speech of religious leaders?