A group of religious activists have asked government to consider reopening places of worship in a bid to return to normalcy and also encourage the continuous observance of the ministry of Health guidelines on Covid-19.
They said while some churches have resorted to preaching using televisions, radios and other online platforms, these methods are only applicable to a few, given that most people in rural areas do not have electricity and the internet.
In a zoom session titled “Protecting Freedom of Worship: Reflections on closure of places of worship during Covid-19”, the group reasoned that the closure of places of worship amounts to infringement of the citizens’ rights to worship which is provided for in the Constitution.
Simon Ssenyonga, a human rights lawyer based in Kampala said that if people do not worship God together, they are spiritually derailed and Ugandans should not allow the devil to rule over them.
He explained that freedom of worship in Uganda is still protected under Article 29 of the Constitution.
“We are going to choose ligation as a path. Article 23 of the Constitution talks about the need to resist anyone who violates the Constitution. Let’s help each other and recognise that what is going on is a violation of the right to religion,” said Ssenyonga.
He explained that the church and other places of worship simply want all people to be treated equally like business people in Kikuubo.
“There is a need for popular resistance against unconstitutional acts of the government. The core freedom of religion is the essence for all to stand up for what you believe in.That is actually very important because that is the language we seem to listen to in Uganda but there is also a need to do mass sensitisation ,”he said.
Anne Tendo, a policy adviser said that it is unfortunate that the places of worship remain closed for the extended period of time.
She said a lot of people concentrate on the freedoms or rights which affect them physically in Uganda and anything which has to do with psychological stature and faith, people easily compromise it.
“I think it is very possible to open up the churches and other worship places. We have places that are open without the limitation in the number of people like a mall. The places of worship are actually able to control the crowd more easily than the places that are being allowed to operate freely,” she said.
Sean Nelson, Alliance Defending Freedom from USA, urged Ugandans to stand up and protect their freedom of worship, warning that once their right to worship is taken away, it will be very hard to have it back.
While revising the lockdown measures last week, government maintained that all religious institutions together with education institutions are still under lockdown as one of the measures to contain the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.