The university administration recently announced that all forms of worship not organized by the Chaplaincy were unwelcome on the campus premises.
The argument presented was that other religious affiliations have watered down the identity of the institution built on the foundation of the Church of Uganda.
The reception of and reaction to this directive has since been a cocktail of emotions and the administration has had to endure battering from the media, politicians, students, alumni and some parents who all accuse the university of being discriminative, intolerant, and insensitive especially to the Moslems who are in Ramadhan.
Although I am inclined to agree with the majority, it is equally important to understand why the administration has had to take this tough position.
Uganda Christian University (UCU) will this year turn 19 years since its upgrade from Bishop Tucker Theological College. Since 1997, the university, through the Chaplaincy, has dealt with harmonising the divergences in the religions to produce holistic education.
A lot has changed since 1997, which could have probably forced the administration’s hand in this matter. Students now shun university worship organised and sanctioned by the Chaplaincy, and prefer to converge in their own fellowships under numerous mushrooming ‘churches’. Sadly, the ministers in most of these ‘churches’ are self-appointed bishops, apostles, disciples, messengers and pastors who cannott be trusted as custodians with others’ spiritual lives.
Recently on a Sunday as I walked to The Standard offices, I noticed a congregation of over 100 students praying just 20 yards away from Nkoyoyo Hall where another Sunday service, organised by the Chaplaincy, was ongoing. This was puzzling: were these people praying to a different God? Why would they not converge with the rest?
My research has led to the revelation that there are more than 200 fellowship groups all worshipping ‘their’ God on the university premises.
This kind of organisation, however harmless, threatens the oneness and spiritual harmony not to mention existence of an establishment like UCU.
As Karl Popper noted in his classic; ‘Open Society and its Enemies’, for any society to function well, it must be governed by a certain tradition, nourished by its norms and values that whomever joins that society ought to adhere to.
That is how dynasties have survived for generations. Otherwise, an institution that started out as Christian could end up as secular if mechanisms are not put in place to check the subjective motivations of these growing fellowships and where they are rooted.
A friend recently narrated to me how their Anglican-turned- Pentecostal roommate was mud sliding the teachings of the Chaplaincy and debating her throat dry that her ‘apostle’ was far better than UCU ministers.
A lot of students have been lured by this particular church not because of the message but the messenger and they keep recruiting for their church among the UCU flock. This cannot continue to happen.
Inasmuch as the freedom to associate is enshrined in the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, we must admit that there is a threat not only to the identity of the university but also spiritual development and cohesion of those who study and work in it.
Although I might not agree with the administration approach to this problem, I admit that something had to be done sooner than later.
Alex Taremwa is a Staff Writer/Features Editor at The Standard and Managing Editor of The Transparent Magazine.