• Tuesday, 21 May 2024
Leaders issue a wake-up call as cultism rears its ugly head

Leaders issue a wake-up call as cultism rears its ugly head

As traditional religions struggle to keep their flocks, new cult-like groups are sprouting up across the country.

Leaders, on the other hand, have warned followers not to be brainwashed by cult leaders, some of whom are allegedly engaging in illegal activities.

Local authorities have banned cult groups in districts such as Sembabule, Maracha, Buvuma, Mbarara, Mbale, Terego, and Jinja, but members continue to practice their faiths in secret.

The Gospel Church Volunteers, known as The Triple Six cult sect in Kamuli District, have been accused of undermining government initiatives such as Universal Primary Education and Immunisation.

According to allegations, the sect prevents their children and followers from accessing education, healthcare, and personal hygiene.

Lead pastor Sam Tefula of Bugulumbya Butefula Zone in Kamuli District claims that the devil is exploiting government programs like vaccination to enter people's bodies and subject them to its wicked influences.

Frank Nsiina, the speaker of Bugulumbya Sub-county council, expresses concern over the suspicious activities of the religious sect, emphasizing the dangers of religious fanaticism, which often stems from poverty and ignorance.

Moses Ddumba, the Kamuli Resident District Commissioner and chairperson of the security committee, strongly asserts that individuals who deprive children of essential health services and education should be apprehended and prosecuted.

Bishop Eddie Munene, the overseer of the Born Again Christian Churches in the Busoga region, cautions against misinterpreting the Bible and theological teachings literally, emphasizing the importance of counseling followers belonging to emerging religious groups with conflicting doctrines.

Mr. Arkangelo Yoga, an elder residing in Arikia Village, Oluvu Sub-county in Maracha District, West Nile, states that a group resembling a cult, founded by the late Yosefua Joseph a decade ago, remains active with a small number of followers.

In their pursuit of expansion, the group leader recruited adherents from the sub-counties of Oluffe, Oluvu, and certain areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to Mr. Yoga, a significant number of Catholics and Protestants joined the group initially. However, after the demise of their leaders, some reverted back to their original religions, and only a few individuals continue to profess this faith.

"The introduction of this cult group caused considerable animosity between us and the followers, almost leading to the dissolution of a small Christian community previously known as Arikia Chapel, now Kamaka Sub-Parish in Oluvu Parish," he explains.

As part of their tradition, the followers of this group are forbidden from consuming pork, mushrooms, cultural cuisine, medication, and attending funerals, among other things.

Mr. Joel Candia, the chairperson of Oluvu Sub-County, expresses concern about the presence of the cult-like group. However, he assures that they are doing their utmost to prevent such groups from thriving in the sub-county.

He acknowledges that every individual has the right to food, but this group exempts its members from eating, resulting in malnutrition among its followers.

Certain cult groups like Enjiri Ya Yesu oppose government initiatives such as immunization and census, yet they manage to evade consequences. Additionally, they deny formal education to children, deeming it "evil," and instead favor homeschooling.

In the Terego District, the local leaders had to take swift action to suppress a group known as the "Etota" who had emerged in the Wandi Trading Centre within the Katrini Sub-county, engaging in cult-like practices.

Ms. Bessie Ajilong, the Resident District Commissioner of Terego, affirms that her office will continue to clamp down on religious groups displaying characteristics of a cult.

"In April 2021, we apprehended a group of individuals who identified themselves as the 'Etota' and were involved in cult-like activities. Since then, such practices have ceased. Anyone interested in engaging in such activities should be aware that it is against the law, and we will handle them firmly," she states.

In certain areas of Parombo and Erussi within Nebbi District, numerous religious sects have emerged, some of which discourage their followers from seeking medical treatment and consuming certain foods.

Within the Teso Sub-region, Vincent Ocen, a pastor associated with the Christ Disciple Church (CDC), asserts that their faith is not a cult, contrary to claims made by some residents.

Recently, more than 101 CDC followers from Bukedea, Ngora, Kumi, and Serere districts were sent back to Uganda after being intercepted in Nakuru, Kenya, while en route to Ethiopia.

According to police reports, the initial group of CDC members who departed numbered approximately 210, while the second group intercepted consisted of 101 individuals.

Oscar Ageca, the police spokesperson for the East Kyoga region, explains that the CDC followers were apprehended as they were heading to Ethiopia with the intention of "permanently preaching the gospel." He further reveals that the Church leadership had abandoned them after they illegally crossed into Kenya.

Mr Ageca stated that the police investigation into the disappearance of Church members who supposedly traveled to Ethiopia's Abyssinia was still ongoing. This context led to the second group attempting to leave the country covertly.

Concerns have arisen in Mubende among residents and leaders in Mugungulu Village, Bageza Sub-county, regarding a local religious movement called "Nyanga Kabbo."

According to Mr Godfrey Bakunzi, the chairperson of Mugungulu A Village, this new religion has amassed over 1,000 followers who regularly attend Saturday prayers. The group was introduced to Mubende by an individual named Anthony from the neighboring Sembabule District.

Bakunzi reveals that the followers are prohibited from owning mobile phones and computers. They also oppose government initiatives, including immunization, and pregnant women receive no prenatal care or injections when they fall ill; instead, they rely on tablets. Additionally, the followers are forbidden from sending their children to school.

Mr Steven Nuwamanya, the district councillor of Bageza Sub-county, explains that local leaders have made efforts to raise awareness among residents about the dangers of this religious group. However, many individuals have chosen to ignore the warnings.

"We managed to apprehend several leaders, but after one month, they were inexplicably released. Today, some of them are congregating in their fields," Nuwamanya adds.

Mr Abubaker Birungi, the deputy RDC of Mubende, emphasizes that depriving children of education is against the law, and the leaders of this cult will be arrested.

When approached for comment, the religious leader known as Kizza declined to speak, stating that he would only be available on May 27.

In Namayingo, Ms Deborah Mwesigwa, the Resident District Commissioner, has alerted everyone to report any suspicious activities in places of worship.

Emergence of Cultism

Over the years, cult-like religious groups in Uganda have gained a negative reputation, largely due to the infamous incident that occurred in Kanungu District in 2000. On March 17, 2000, the leaders of a doomsday cult called the Movement for the Restoration of the 10 Commandments of God locked approximately 700 people inside a church and set it on fire. Sadly, all those inside perished. The cult, led by Joseph Kibwetere, believed that the world would end with the new millennium. Kibwetere's current whereabouts remain unknown, leaving uncertainty about whether he is alive or deceased.

 

In a neighboring country, Kenya, Pastor Paul Mackenzie, who leads the Good News International Church in Shakahola Village, Malindi, deceived his followers into fasting to the point of starvation, claiming it would bring them closer to Jesus.

 

Days later, the Kenyan Police discovered the bodies of over 200 followers who had died while undertaking this dangerous ritual. Some of the deceased were found without their organs. In 2014, another cult referred to as the 'Palace of Peace' emerged in Masaka District, and its members refused to participate in the National Population and Housing Census.

 

Furthermore, in June 2019, the residents of Kanyagoga Parish in Bardege Division, Gulu City, took drastic measures by setting fire to a church known as Jesus the Living Stone Ministries or Yecu aye Got Makwo. The self-proclaimed pastor, Bataringaya Okumu, was accused of promoting cult worship and prohibiting his followers from seeking medical treatment in hospitals and clinics, as he claimed to heal them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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