- Ugandans have congregated to commemorate Martyrs' Day for the first time in two years.
- At the event, President Yoweri Museveni said the country's lockdown discipline was inspired by religious teachings.
- A US report on religious freedoms stated that five faith-based organisations were banned in Uganda last year.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has likened Covid-19 to the biblical "rod of anger", saying that the country has managed to pull through the global pandemic because of Christian teachings, largely ignoring the positive impact of science.
He said this on Friday in a national address to celebrate Martyrs' Day, a national holiday in Uganda.
"Go home, my people, and lock your doors! Hide yourselves for a little while until the Lord's anger has passed," he said, quoting from Isaiah chapter 26, verse 20 in the Bible.
To expand on the verse, he referred to Covid-19. "Now that the Lord's anger (Covid-19) has passed and the virus has been defeated, believers are again at liberty to congregate and worship the Almighty God," he said.
For the first time in two years, Martyrs' Day was commemorated with public gatherings. Uganda, like many countries who heeded scientific advice to limit human contact during the height of the pandemic, imposed strict lockdown regulations.
The public holiday commemorates the killing of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda (present-day Uganda) between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887.
The Catholic Church beatified the 22 Catholic martyrs in 1920 and canonised them in 1964.
Museveni said for him, martyrdom went beyond religion. In his address, he also took time to acknowledge nationalists who had died for their causes across Africa.
"The African freedom fighters – such as Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique; Amílcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau; Herbert Chitepo of Zimbabwe; Patrice Lumumba of the Congo – were killed because they believed and worked for the liberation of Africa from the shackles of colonialism. They were political martyrs," Museveni said.
Religion in Uganda
The Office of International Religious Freedom, housed in the US State Department, released its annual report on Thursday.
According to the report, the Constitution of Uganda prohibits religious discrimination and stipulates that there shall be no state religion.
This, according to the report, "provides for freedom of belief, the right to practice and promote any religion, and the right to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious organisation".
The report stated that Museveni banned 54 non-governmental organisations last year, most of which were faith-based, for their failure to meet the country's registration requirements.
The report also mentioned allegations that Museveni's ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), accused some Roman Catholic priests and Anglican clerics of indirectly telling their congregations to vote for the opposition National Unity Platform party, led by musician Bobi Wine.
While the majority of Ugandans are Christian, the Uganda Muslim Youth Development Forum has raised concerns about ill-treatment and exclusion in national matters.
In its report, the Office of International Religious Freedom said US ambassador to Uganda Natalie E. Brown "met on several occasions with President Yoweri Museveni and emphasised the government's obligations to respect the rights of all persons, regardless of religious affiliation".
According to the most recent census, conducted in 2014, 82% of the population was Christian. The largest Christian group was Roman Catholic, at 39%, while 32% of the population were Anglican, and 11% Pentecostal Christian.
The census reported that Muslims constituted 14% of the population.
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