May 22, 2008
Don't blame media for pastors' sins
Seldom do I publicly respond to reactions to my stories but I must make an exception to, ‘I lied that Pastor Imelda’s prayers cured my AIDS’ and ‘Dying in God’s name; can prayers substitute ARVS?’ (The Weekly Observer, May 8-14, 2008.)

The first was an account by Grace Kashemeire, 55, who claimed that in 1999, Pastor Imelda Kula Namutebi asked her to declare that her (Namutebi’s) prayers had cured her of HIV/AIDS, which she did for seven years.

The latter was a revelation that some pastors encourage their flock to abandon their life-saving anti-retroviral drugs, arguing that prayers alone will heal them.
I am pleased about the compliments I received, but this reply targets the few who told me that being a born-again Christian, I shouldn’t have been the one to expose unscrupulous pastors.

Is a born-again journalist only supposed to cover religious leaders’ positive deeds [which I have done before] and close his eyes to the dirt?
What is the basis of that?

The Bible, the supreme law for every believer, tasks us to defend the voiceless, but I will only quote Proverbs 31: 8-9.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute; speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The voiceless, destitute, poor and needy in question, in my view include people who have died or lost dear ones after quitting ARVs; people who have been sodomised and lost property, including houses and cars, at the hands of a few deceitful ‘pastors’ who hide under religion to fleece their flock.

The earlier pastors confront the dirt within their ranks and stop blaming the media for their woes the better. Even if media were to turn a deaf ear, the truth would still come out sooner than later any way.

Recently, I was introduced to a man and I read a chapter in the book he is writing about his experience with six cults in Kampala. What this man actually calls cults are well-known churches and when I asked him to be careful with his word usage, he insisted on calling them cults, adding that he was part of their leadership so he should know! Does such a person need media to tell his story?
Every Monday, the Kampala Central Police Station briefs journalists about crimes committed in the previous week. Hardly a month passes without Police parading a ‘Pastor’, ‘Apostle’, ‘Bishop’ or ‘Prophet’ involved in incest, theft, robbery, defilement or assault! I have indeed interacted with some and I doubt if they are what they claim to be.

The Pentecostal Church leadership (many of the crooks claim to be members) needs to streamline the process of bestowing priestly titles. Not every Tom, Dick and Hurry should give themselves labels of their liking!

Those already in ministry should be given a time-frame within which to get trained, failure of which they forfeit their priestly ranks. This is not an option if pastors are to remain relevant, with the loyalty and trust of their flock!

Has anybody reflected on why there are less cases of vice among reverends, fathers and canons? I guess it’s because the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches subject their clerics to formal training. They consecrate their clerics and have clearly defined criteria for promotion.
Making ministry free entry makes it prone to abuse by unscrupulous people, and makes the regulation of pastors even harder.

Government should also explain the links it has with certain pastors, some of whom reportedly have military escorts.

Last year, The Weekly Observer quoted Pastor Solomon Male as confessing that while serving as Pastor Samuel Kakande’s deputy for four years, they used to burn sero-positive HIV results and then tell the patients that they have been healed of HIV/AIDS!

In our story on ARVs versus prayers two weeks ago, we reported that almost all the people who got ‘healed’ of HIV/AIDS at Kakande’s church, according to information available on his website www.thekakandeministeries.org, had tested at Bwaise Clinic and Ebenezer Limited Clinical Laboratory! Has anybody tried to investigate this?
In 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was detained for leading a march against segregation of blacks.
Eight clergy men from Albama penned a missive in which they described Luther’s demonstrations “unwise”, “untimely” and “extreme.”

In his famous April 16, 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail, Luther replied asking his fellow clerics why they were condemning his remedial actions, not the unjust treatment of Negroes in courts, the unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches, their disenfranchisement even in areas where they constituted the majority!

Why do people condemn the media for exposing wrongs of pastors not their doers?
Like Luther said in his memo,
“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”

Michael Mubangizi, The author is a Staff Reporter with The Weekly Observer. mcmubs@ugandaobserver.com