“We are not Happy with the Greek Orthodox Leadership, and Tribalism in Uganda, and in Africa. We Need Help” – Ugandan Orthodox Christians 

Catechist Wanjala Emmanuel

Catechist Wanjala Emmanuel

OCP News Service – 26/5/2020

An interview with Catechist Wanjala Emmanuel on the internal crisis in the Ugandan Orthodox Church. Interviewed by George Alexander, Secretary of the Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society.  Edited by L.J.

Can you brief us a little about yourself?

My name is Wanjala Emmanuel, thirty-seven years old and I am a Ugandan by Nationality. I live in the Eastern Uganda region and Amunyole by the tribe. I am a convert to Orthodox faith. My baptism took place in the year 2004 at the age of sixteen, which was conducted by Rev.Fr. Joseph Panuha at the St.Spiridon Orthodox Parish, Namutumba District, Eastern Uganda.

What is your personal experience with faith? Are you content as an Orthodox Christian? 

In the sacrament of chrismation, each one of us is ‘’sealed’’ the gift of the holy spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things, enlightens us, and commends to us the way to salvation revealed by Jesus Christ. This mystery is imparted within the context of the entire faith community, not apart from it. While being filled with the Holy Spirit personally, this is done in the midst of the church (the worshipping and believing community). In the sacrament of chrismation, each one of us is ‘’sealed’’ the gift of the holy spirit. In a personal relationship with Christ or the Holy Spirit, Orthodoxy sees the fulfillment of such personal relationships within the context of the Christian community, not apart from it. With the new faith, I became one of the applicants to join the seminary in the year 2008 and went to Makarios III ecclesiastical school in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition, I was awarded a diploma certificate on 06/5/2011. The Orthodox faith cannot be appreciated fully or appropriated personally, by the individual who is outside the Orthodox Church. It is only within the church that one has the necessary perspective of experiencing Orthodoxy as the revelation of Divine Life. Yes as an Orthodox Christian I am content with the faith.  

The Uganda Orthodox Church falls under the juristrcition of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and Africa. It consists of one Metropolis headed by Archbishop Jonah lwanga (Kampla and All Uganda) and one Diocese (Gulu and All-Eastern Uganda) headed by Bishop Silvestros. Both bishops are Bagandas. Former Prelates – the late Bishop Reuben Mukasa Sparta and the late Bishop Theodoros Nankyama were also Bagandas. There are about thirty-two different tribes in Uganda. The Ugandan Orthodox Church consists of people from eight tribes namely Bagandas, Basoga, Bagisu, Bateso/Ateso, Acholi, Basamya, Bagwere, and Banyoli. 

What are the problems faced by the Ugandan Orthodox Christians? Do you believe all members of the Church receive proper treatment from the Alexandrian Patriarchate?

Uganda Orthodox Christians face several problems, especially the Baganda Tribalism. Orthodox in Uganda began in 1929 by Baganda men: Obadia Basajjakitalo, Spartas Reuben, Erinuoes Majimbi, and Theodoros Nankyama. As of now Bishop Jonah and Bishop Kisitu who govern the church are their grandsons. All bishops follow the footsteps of those four men and they belong to the same family from the Buganda Kingdom. Bagandas have taken advantage of being rulers, not spiritual leaders of faith. Bagandas don’t want any other Tribe to come near them. All church offices are full of Bagandas and have become ‘Jonah colonies’ of Orthodox faith. This kind of life has not united Bagandas with other Tribes in this Church. Eg, Gulu, and Eastern Uganda tribes. Since 1929, the Orthodox faith as a religion in Uganda is only 0.1% because Bagandas possess all means of mission work and are just specific to their home (land of Buganda), making it difficult for other tribes to receive the faith.

Bishop, Vicar, General Secretary, Accountant, Treasurer, C/Lady Mothers union, Youth’s c/m, Youth Sec, Youth Treasurer are Mugandas (persons belonging to Bagandas Tribe) and all Church van drivers are Bagandas. The Gulu diocese Bishop is a Muganda again. Therefore, we find the Orthodox Church in Uganda belongs to Bagandas and has become ‘BUGANDA ORTHODOX KINGDOM’ and not the Uganda Orthodox Church! Due to too much tribalism, Gulu and Eastern Uganda, Orthodox Christians had to demonstrate so that we may get our own Diocese, which will unite the Tribes who have lost hope from the Baganda leadership.

  1. Youth in the Orthodox Church of Uganda enjoys no projects in their organization. The organization has donors, but the money contributed goes into pockets of the leader and his family members leaving the youth asking themselves, where are we heading, and how does our church take care of the youth? Many youths have remained home whereas others have moved to other denominations.
  2.  Widows are not considered.
  3. Sunday school programs are not properly held in parishes.
  4. Parishes have no income-generating projects. If they maintain such projects then they can buy wine, bread, and candles for church services. But Bishops don’t support such ideas.
  5. Many Orthodox Christians are jobless. The church receives money to support the education sector. However, the money intended to support the poor or needy students remains in the bank accounts of Bagandas. This has resulted in a lack of education and joblessness.
  6. Orthodox Christians of Uganda are not taught the faith in a proper manner. A catechist in Uganda Orthodox Church is not regarded as a vessel who is capable of passing the faith to the gentiles. After finishing the seminary training, you are left alone to struggle in life. Moreover one of the priests (Fr. Bayego Nicholas) and the secretary (Katto Theodoros) hid my class Seven certificate and a form four certificate just because I’m not a Muganda. This has killed the talents of some of us. These catechists come from Gulu and Eastern Uganda. As I said, we suffer from the tribalism of our leaders. Catechists: Wanjala Emmanuel, Viscent Owoti, Harman Ediangu, Athanasios Slashocom, Bayege Edward, Samson Wesonga. We have been left out since 2009.
  7. There is no unity amongst the Tribes due to the domination of Bagandas. 

Not all members receive decent treatment! The Church in Uganda belongs to a certain group of tribes like Bagandas who owns everything in the church. Non-Bagandas remain voiceless. In such a situation, Gulu and Eastern Ugandans demonstrated so that we may have our own diocese. Luck did not favor us as Bishop is Muganda, who is a relative of Jonah.

Do you think that the faithful are happy with the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria? If not, why? 

No, faithful are not at all happy. While the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria recognized the Ukrainian schismatics (Orthodox Church in Ukraine-OCU), many African Priests refrained from such an act. Greek hierarchs of Alexandria punished those African priests who objected to the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics by defrocking them. Bishops like Makarios (Kenya Metropolis), Jonah, Kisitu do not allow us to choose Russian or other Patriarchates amid the Ukraine canonical crisis. If we choose to follow the proper canons of our Orthodox faith, we are threatened to be defrocked. In this place, we are in a landlocked situation in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. For example, America has many Orthodox Churches, but Africa belongs merely to the Greek Patriarchate. Are we prisoners to the Greek Patriarchate? Greek Orthodox leaders in Africa like Bishop Makarios and Bishop Jonah do not allow expansion of mission work in the country. Since 1929, Uganda has not grown in terms of Orthodox faith or faithful. The bishops blocked all those who worked for erecting another diocese. In Kenya, Bishop Makarios managed four years without paying priests allowance. When priests demonstrated and asked for the creation of separate dioceses, Bishop Makarios resisted them by all means. He dodges the Synod because priests petitioned a letter to the Patriarch of Alexandria. However Kenya has one Metropolis and two dioceses. 

What has Bishop Makarios of Kenya to do with the Ugandan Church?

Bishop Makarios wants to make sure that no Priests or faithful will ever switch jurisdiction. I mean from the Alexandrian Patriarchate to any other Orthodox Church, particularly to the Patriarchate Moscow. Bishop Makarios maintains close relations to some of the Bagandas and priests like Fr. Bayego Nicholas and Fr. Joseph Mutokya in the Uganda Orthodox Church. Bishop Makarios and Bishop Jonah stick together so that no priests from the Kenyan or Ugandan Orthodox Churches will ever move to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. As far as I understand, Bishop Makarios did not want the Metropolis of Kenya to be divided. He wanted to manage Kenya alone. However, two dioceses (Kisumu and Western Kenya, Neyri and Mount Kenya) were erected as a result of the efforts by Bishop Kongai of Nyeri and Mount Kenya and late Bishop Akunda of Kisumu, their priests, and parishioners.

Why do you oppose Bishops like Jonah when many others support him? A recent social media post heavily praised Bishop Jonah. Can you give specific reasons for your opposition?

Bishop Jonah is a Muganda and those who support his ways and speech are, in addition, Bagandas. If Bishop Jonah can sit down and reveal or speak about the Orthodox Church order of leadership then I can praise him too. But due to tribalism in the orthodoxy of Uganda, we are not in a position to praise him. We doubt his capacity to govern the church which God entrusted to him. He supports only Bagandas and ignores other tribes. He wants only Bagandas to stay stable and take over high church positions.

To understand whether Bishop Jonah is doing a good job, let us ask his Orthodox flock. He might be praised by politicians but what sense does it make while his flock is lamenting his leadership. It’s true. Many Orthodox Christians in Uganda have suffered tribalism because of him. Therefore, if his flocks are not confident in his leadership, praise doesn’t make any sense. We have kept silent on many church issues that run opposite of what he is being praised by politicians and others. Let Bishop Jonah be praised by his flock but not in political circles. Praise should be bestowed on the revered Church fathers like St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, Gregory the Great, but not for a person who promotes Tribalism. 

We feel terrible when politicians praise him, and we in the church lament because of him. It is as if taking away the food of your children and feeding the dogs. Gulu and Eastern Orthodox Christians don’t see his catholicity. Praise comes only from Kampala and Buganda kingdom people. As Orthodox Church Christians we do not enjoy his leadership. Let politicians praise him. Bishop Jonah supports Tribalism in the church. He treats his fellow Bagandas as first-class Christians. He likes speaking about political leaders of the country but keeps silent about problems in the Orthodox Church. He failed to unite the tribes (who are Orthodox) due to tribalism and personal agenda. If the Bishop was great in his missionary work, the praise should have first come from us, his flock.

In Dec 2017, Bishop Jonah lashed at Museveni (the President of Uganda) for being a poor leader, failing to prepare a successor after several years of enjoying this country. Here, the Bagandas are doing the same, preparing fellow Bagandas as successors in the church. For example in the Gulu Diocese and Eastern Uganda Bishop Jonah made sure that the Bishop in this diocese is none other than a Muganda. 

Bishop Jonah is poor in leadership like Museveni. Bishop Jonah also chided Museveni’s ministers for being selfish, corrupt, and that they were interested in personal gains rather than those of the country and its citizens. However, in contradiction, Bishop and his fellow Bagandas in the Ugandan Orthodox Church also practice selfishness, corruption, and accord importance to personal gains that originate from their tribalism. The Bagandas in the Orthodox Church of Uganda act dictatorially and such actions suffocate other tribes (Non -Bagandas). Since 1929 (according to records from the National Bureau of Statistics), the Orthodox Church has constituted about one percent (1%) of the Ugandan population. This is about half a million people. Tribalism, selfishness, dictatorial, corrupt, and personal gains have limited the mission work from reaching the grassroots communities (who are not Bagandas across the country). 

Bishop Jonah speaks with boldness, and courage about Museveni’s government, but has he spoken with such boldness and courage to his flock? Since 1986 the leadership of Museveni has resulted in injustices, unfairness, and impunity in Uganda. Has Bishop Jonah ever spoken about the injustices, unfairness, Tribalism, and impunity in the Uganda Orthodox Church? As per the Bishop, Bobi Wine (Ugandan political activists) and the Ugandan citizens stood against the NRM (The National Resistance Movement) military dictatorship in Uganda. Likewise, I am a Ugandan Orthodox Christian, and I stand against the leadership of Bagandas in the Church. 

The Buganda kingdom sympathizes with the innocent citizens of Uganda and the Bagandas. But Orthodox Christians in Gulu and Eastern Uganda suffer from their leadership. Allow the truth to be told, let it be heard, and let there be a change in the spirit of the leadership of Bagandas in Uganda Orthodox Church. Bishop Jonah once said ‘NRM govt would collapse because it disturbed the Nation very much, adding that the NRM exit will mark the beginning of the good things in this country of Uganda’. Likewise the Orthodox Christians of Gulu and Eastern Uganda state that  ‘the collapse of the Baganda tribalism, selfishness, corruption, and discrimination in Uganda Orthodox Church and their exit will signal the beginning of unity among Orthodox Christian tribes.’

We can not attempt dealing with Baganda because they are not after Truth, their God is Money and Stomach. They are silent in this matter because Bishop Jonah, a man of their tribe, attends to the needs of their Stomachs and provides money and tuition fees for the students from his tribe to study in Greece, America, etc. But for us in the North and far East, We seek Truth! 

Why do you specifically accuse the Greek Orthodox leadership? Can you prove your accusations? What seems to be the reason for such an unjust attitude? 

Greek Alexandrian Patriarchate Bishops threaten whoever tries to join other Patriarchates stating that, “If you cross to the Russian Orthodox Church, you will lose salvation. “Bishop Makarios of Kenya threatened priests who signed the letter from Russia. Bishop Kisitu of Gulu diocese in Uganda defrocked Fr. David Lakwo from his parish. African priests, catechists and laity, we ask ourselves: Is salvation limited to the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria? Other Orthodox Churches are not saving anyone?

We are in darkness. Priests who are under Greek Alexandrian Patriarchate are treated as second class citizens. Many of those parishes established in the early ’80s remain still in muddy building structures. e.g. St. James- (Priest – Wanjala Chrysostomos Agrey), and St. Mary (Priest – Photios Korirr), etc.

We don’t know whether it is canonical or Biblical to be locked within the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria. We have no idea! We are landlocked here in Africa to the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria. They have placed barriers for us everywhere. We are not allowed even to speak to them. We need many Orthodox Churches here in Africa.

Greek leadership act as the controllers of Africa. Priests and laity express their difficulties to the leadership. However, such things remain unanswered. We are additionally not allowed to join other Patriarchates. Greek leadership under its Bishops is defrocking priests who signed the letter from Russia. E.g. Gulu diocese in Uganda. Is it a sin to move to the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate? We find ourselves being forced to follow the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. 

‘Salvation only in the Alexandrian Greek Church’

In his pastoral letter from Jan 17, Bishop Makarios emphasized that the Patriarchate of Alexandria is the only canonical church in Africa, and that ‘’any other ways of engaging mission work in Africa will always be considered outside the established boundaries of the church. Such personalities and those who follow them shall, unfortunately, lose [sic] the church as their mother, as well as God as their father, and considering there is no salvation outside the church, they shall automatically lose [sic] their salvation,” stated Archbishop Makarios. 

Met. Makarios of Kenya, Met.Agathonikos of Arusha and Central Tanzania and Met. Dimitrios of Irineopolis does not treat African clergy in an appropriate manner. Greek bishops in Africa punish black African priests and laypeople who respectfully expressed their opinions. “All races are equal, but Greeks are more equal.’’There is no guarantee that people will blindly follow a Patriarch. Greek hierarchs will have to prepare themselves to face the consequences when the native African clergy moves over to the Russian church. As of my understanding, the future of all priests who signed the letter from the Russian Church will be hopeless if they return to the Greek Church. We have remained in bondage with the Greeks in Africa. 

Is this your personal opinion? Do others in your community share the same opinion about the Greek Orthodox leadership in Uganda?  

It is my personal opinion as well as the opinion of many others. I have it in my mind, and I see it with my eyes, and the entire community does the same. The community of Gulu and Eastern Uganda has shared the same opinion in Uganda since 2014. 

In Gulu and Eastern diocese, four priests together with their parishes support Greek leadership whereas seven priests, their parishes, and two deacons don’t support Greek leadership. Earlier all the priests worked as a team especially during the demonstration for A new Diocese. All Gulu and Eastern Uganda priests and parishioners stayed together as a team. However, the four priests who support Greek leadership defected from our team.

Fr.David Lakwo, the parish priest of Archangel Michael Parish was defrocked by the Greek leadership. All seven parishioners were informed by priests about the situation and they have been supporting us since the beginning of this struggle. They even demonstrated by carrying placards, and tree branches shouting; “We want a new Diocese in Gulu”. At first we had the Metropolis of Kampala and all Uganda. After encountering the Baganda politics, we from Gulu and Eastern Uganda wanted to have a diocese. However, the diocese was erected after a lot of struggle, protests, and demands

Apart from defrocking Fr.David, Catechists like Herman Edyangu, Athanasios Ochom, Bayege Edward, Viscent Owoti, and Wanjala Emmanuel (me) have been threatened to be defrocked by the Ugandan Baganda leadership.

We want a change of Orthodox leadership in Gulu, and we still want to move to the Russian Patriarchate. The following priests are ready: Fr. David Lakawo, Fr. Ocean Charalambos, Fr. Emmanuel Athanasios Oruk, Fr. John Okelo, Fr.Simon Menya, Deacon Stephen Innocent, catechists: Wanjala Emmanuel, Vincent Owoti, Harman Ediangu, Bayege Edward, Athanasios Salashocom, Samson Wesonga, Wisely Chogo, and the communities and parishioners were these priests used to serve are with us in this battle.

Is it the same with other African countries? 

Yes, it is the same. We have problems in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Nigeria, 

Did Orthodox faithful leave the Church for other denominations due to politics and tribalism? 

It was in the year 2010 one Orthodox priest left the Church and threw his vestments to Bishop Jonah. He was from Jinja parish in Eastern Uganda and was called Lubega. Jinja town was full of Orthodox Christians, but due to the behavior of Bagandas, people have left. The faithful from Jinja Town moved to other denominations and remained with the persons who sold the land to the church. I visited this parish during the enthronement day of Bishop Kisitu last year, but there were not many parishioners present for the ceremony. The parish priest mentioned the same, and he said he was not aware of whether the parish would regain its lost souls. It is the second cathedral of Gulu and Eastern Uganda diocese. Also in the year 2013, another priest from St. Spyridon Insinze Parish, Namutumba district (again from Eastern Uganda) left the Church due to Bishop Jonah and his Bagandas politics and due to the failure to comply with their views. The priest (Fr. Moses Gubbi) moved out with his family. Fr. Moses from St.Spyridon Parish moved out with his wife and children.  This parish also has descendants of the Orthodox pioneers in this region. However, the descendants insisted to become priests and were ordained by Bishop Jonah in 2014. This happened before the creation of a new Gulu diocese and Eastern Uganda. You may note that all who have suffered tribalism are from Eastern and Gulu. No Muganda priest has ever left or felt angry with the church leadership because all things belong to them and are under their control. You may also note that all who have suffered from Baganda Tribalism are from Eastern and Northern Uganda. That is why we demanded a new diocese. It is true that few priests together with their parishioners left Orthodoxy.

Despite the criticisms expressed, do you appreciate any hierarch of the Alexandrian Patriarchate for their genuine and fair leadership? If yes, why?

I have a lot of respect for Bishop Byakatonda Innocentios of Burundi and Rwanda. In my opinion, he is a true Orthodox Prelate. He taught me patrology, spirituality, and Divine services in the seminary of Nairobi from 2008-2011. In 2014, he invited me to go with him to Rwanda and Burundi during the Holy Week and I went, we sang during the service with three brothers from Congo. I have stayed with him, and I know his caring personality. Once I was in dire need of money and I requested him the same. He gave me money to buy a blanket, as well as the fare to go home. He is well known in Uganda Orthodox Church, Kenya as a bishop who helps several poor students by paying their school fees even of those kids who do not belong to his tribe. He is a kind Prelate with a kind heart. Bishop Innocentios is not a Muganda. He resisted and refused to follow Bishop Jonah and Bagandas politics in church and stayed in Kenya for a long time. From Kenya, he moved to Rwanda and Burundi. Presently Byakatonda Innocentios is the Bishop of Burundi and Rwanda. What I meant is Bagandas do not want any other tribe in the leadership in the Ugandan Orthodox Church.

How do you assess the growth of the mission of the Alexandrian Patriarchate in Africa? How do you envisage the future of the Ugandan and African Orthodox Christians? 

The growth of the mission work is filled with Greek racism [Hellenism]. The Patriarchate does not allow other Patriarchates to come to Africa. This mission work has to be handed over to other Patriarchates. What we desire is an increase in the number of Orthodox Christians in Africa. This mission work is moving at a slower pace because the Greek leaders don’t want other missionaries from the brotherhood of Orthodoxy to come to Africa. This mission will take a long time to reach the suffering gentiles. Some bishops in other parts of Africa are ‘Tribalistic’ like in Uganda. What we desire is the increased number of Orthodox Christians in Africa. Mission work and its expansion have no proper follow-ups in order to make sure the funds or donations sent to bishops are utilized in the projects or organizations, school programs, in building good and stable Church buildings, and so on. The funds are being misused. Priests and poor faithful are not given their allowances on time. The mission works through bishops is weak in utilizing the trained catechists who can preach the gospel and carry out catechism to the gentiles. Even the Patriarch himself has no list, and it seems that his office is not following up on those candidates who have completed theological courses.

The Future of Ugandan Orthodox Christians

Their future will not be good since the faith is specific to Bagandas leadership. The future is lost because the youth is unhappy with leadership who tends to practice Tribalism. Their future will be lost, to those who think Bagandas will lead them. Their future is getting worse since 1929 because the church leaders have neglected other tribes. Their future is full of sorrows because of the Greek leadership. We are going to suffer human rights abuse in the church until Bagandas’ tribalism is dissolved. It is not going to be there because it has disturbed this church very much. Bagandas are treating Orthodox Christians of Gulu and Eastern Uganda as if they possess the Orthodox faith. Bagandas think everything belongs to them.

The Future of the African Orthodox Christians 

The Greek Patriarchate and its bishops carry out decisions without consulting the African priests and faithful who make up the Patriarchate. This solely will remain and has remained in Africa for long. Africans will remain Greek prisoned forever, and yet we are suffering from their leadership. Africans will not enjoy the freedom of worship by joining other Orthodox Churches due to padlocks put on them. The Greek hierarchs will never pass on the torch to any other institution. It will continue existing, with those few members of the faithful flock of the Orthodox Church. There has never been a single moment during its two thousand years of history when it lowered the torch of its struggle and its destiny. As a result, the Patriarchate of Alexandria is a significant, if not unique, contributor to the continuation of the Greek presence in Egypt. One has to admit that today there are various difficulties and problems, which this Patriarchate has brought in Africa to the priests and catechists. The Patriarchate of Alexandria has remained the greatest service to Hellenism, a tradition that is continuing today amid the difficulties with which we have become familiar. No matter how the Greek presence, in numerical terms, may dwindle, the Greek spirit which has been present in Alexandria for so many centuries will never disappear. 

African Orthodox Christians will remain dependent on foreign aid to start projects which can generate money for them and be able to build Churches, pay priest allowance or welfare, buy church books, and buy wine and bread for the liturgy and candles, even to be able to pay tithes in church.

Moreover, all those African priests that signed the letter from Russia will have no peace with the Greek hierarchs. Unless we move to the Russian Orthodox forever for our safety in orthodoxy. Any priest going back to the Greek hierarchs will be called ‘big-headed’ and thus, these Bishops will do harm to such priests. Hence it is better for the Russian Church to enter Africa. 

Why don’t you have a large-scale movement against Bagandas politics? What is the opinion of other Non-Baganda tribes? Why are they silent?

We have no large-scale movement against Baganda politics in the Ugandan Orthodox Church because; all Orthodox leaders of Uganda are Bagandas. The Bagandas work as a unit to silence tribes in church. We who are not Bagandas have no say over them. The bishops point fingers at us and we remain silent.  The opinion of other Non-Baganda tribes is to have their own Patriarchate and Bishops who are not from Baganda tribe. This will aid us to unite other tribes who have lost hope in Bagandas’ tribal leadership in the Ugandan Orthodox Church. We also want a non-Greek Patriarchate and because our priests were defrocked after signing the papers from the Russian Orthodox Church. We expect our dear Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church to accept us as his flock. We do not want to return to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. We stopped celebrating the liturgy. We stay home in our villages waiting for our dear father George Maximon and patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church to respond to our plea.

What do you think about the outcome of this interview? Will it affect you and others who support you? Do you think that the leadership of the Alexandrian Church will dismiss your accusations as a mere internal problem of the Ugandan Orthodox Church? 

The outcome over here will endure total persecution which we are prepared to face in the name of Jesus and Truth. Possible solutions for the problems faced by Gulu and Eastern Uganda Orthodox Christians are also expected so that we come out of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. The interview with you will encourage us to collaborate with you and stop this exclusive, turning-inward to one land or one person simply because it does not correspond to the meaning of apostleship, of the mission, as it is defined in the New Testament. Whether the Alexandrian Patriarchate will neglect this or not, the fact remains, we are fed up with this Patriarchal leadership in Uganda Orthodox Church. Those who tend to complicate everything will be the Baganda bishops and who consistently ignore our cry. If the Alexandrian Patriarchate will disregard this, it will be a proof to the Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society and other Patriarchates worldwide how the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria ignores to resolve the internal problems of the Ugandan Orthodox Church Christians since 1929. After gaining your support, we will have a voice to unite other tribes whom the Bagandas have ignored and the priests who were defrocked due to signing the Russian Orthodox Church letter will no longer go back to work with Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. We shall obtain novel ways of church missionaries, administration and we shall maintain peace, love for one another irrespective of the tribe, race, jurisdiction, and culture. 

Do you think that the Pope and Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria is aware of the situation? Have you ever attempted an appeal towards the Alexandrian Patriarch or to the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate?

Definitely, the Pope is aware of our problems but not all, because the laity, priests, and catechists have no part in the synod. Patriarch Theodoros is aware but obeys anything the Ecumenical Patriarch says. Moreover, Baganda bishops prevent everything so that the Pope is unable to intervene. The bishops point their fingers on us. Whoever tries speaking against the situation is silenced. As we are all aware the synod consists only of bishops. Priests, catechists, and laity are not allowed in the Synod. We enjoy no access to go to the Synod of Alexandria that is we are unable to achieve solutions for many of our problems. We are abandoned whenever it comes to matters in the church. An appeal was lodged, but no reaction…We don’t need to beg Patriarch Theodoros to change,  instead, we request Moscow Patriarchate to speedily accept us and produce a Tomos to this effect. 

Do you have a laity level movement to counter the problems? Do you have a solution to the crisis? 

Yes. We have gathered defrocked priests and want you to help us come out of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and move to the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. We feel it is uncanonical for us to live our life in bondage by the Greek Church.

As of now, We have received Fr. George Maximos from Russia, who came and gave priests letters to sign condemning the act of the Patriarch of Alexandria that recognized the Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU). We were informed by our priests to follow them, and we are behind them. We want to follow the truth of our church and apostolic canons.

To whom are you thankful for propagating and building the Eastern Orthodox Church in Uganda and Africa?

We should be obliged to many people. Primarily St.Mark, who took the gospel (which he himself composed) to Egypt, first preached Christ at Alexandria, and built a Church. Pioneers of Orthodoxy in East Africa: The pioneers of Orthodox faith in East Africa are the late Bishop Christopherous of Niloupolis (Reuben Mukasa Sparta’s, Mugimba Sebbanja, and the late Fr.Archimandrite Obadia Kabanda Basajjakitalo.They were both Bagandas. Rev.Fr. Obadia.k. Basajjakitalo was brother-in-law to Fr Reuben Mukasa Sebbanja. In the early 1920s, these two men were soldiers in the African Kings rifle barracks at Bombo, a small town only twenty miles north of Kampala. During that time, these pioneers of the Orthodox faith together with the communities were crying bitterly about the British rule in Uganda. 

Their co-operation with the Negros of the USA and through struggle got rid of British rule. They entered contact with the struggling Negros who were flinging magazines to the Ugandans. But on the other side, seeing that there was enmity between the Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries, the Ugandan Orthodox pioneers wanted to know the root cause of the same. They read many books seeking answers. Rev Fr. Reuben was one time a houseboy of an Anglican white missionary who undertook the quest very seriously. He searched the bookshelf of the white missionary and came across a book on church history. He read about Church history (related to the Orthodox Church). He discovered the definition of the word “Orthodox” and was curious to know more about the origin and nature of this church. Mr.Reuben Mukasa Sparta’s having read much about Greek history was so impressed by the braveness, politeness, and behavior of the Spartans, that he adopted Spartas’ as his new name. By observing the order of service during worship, Spartas’ (as a young man) was struck by the role and conduct of a priest and hoped he would become the priestly servant of God one-day. Because Reuben Spartas’ and Basajjakitalo shared frequently in common, they thought that in view of the precarious political and religious confrontations in their own country, something had to be done. These pioneers were in the group of people who had contacts with the Negros of the USA and enjoyed the chances of reading magazines sent to them. 

In one of the magazines, they read about the Orthodox Church, which was operating in the states. They required a renewed faith in Uganda. Thank God that they did not lose faith, hope despite the challenges they went through. It is well known that the sudden spread of Orthodoxy in Uganda was an unparalleled event of its kind. No one came from Europe on behalf of the Orthodox Church to evangelize the African as the other church missionaries had done. Yet, no one Africa has cared to travel abroad in search of the light of the mother church. Africans were extremely eager to consider various religious teachings. They did not rest still they ferreted out all the information about the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which is presently known as the Eastern or Greek or Russian Orthodox Church, etc. Orthodoxy began in Uganda by Rev.Fr.Spartas and Rev.Fr. Obadia Basajjakitalo on 6th, January 1929. We are indebted to Patriarch Daniel William Macquire, Primate of the Free Evangelical Orthodox Church, who assisted the pioneers by sending them Bishop Daniel William Alexander from Kimberly (South Africa) to Uganda. He arrived in Uganda in 1932. He found the two pioneers, instructed them for one year, and afterward ordained them as priests and later returned home. 

We are always thankful to the late Mr. Viachos, the Greek man who provided two pioneers the address of Rev.Dr.Archimandrite Nicodemos Sarikas who was serving in Kibosho Moshi and Arusha in Tanzania. He is the one who advised the Orthodox followers in Uganda that they were under the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. He encouraged the new Orthodox members of Uganda, taught them catechism, and submitted a report to his Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch Meletios II (1934). The pioneers’ interests in the East African mission had increased leaps and bounds due to meeting with the people speaking about the newly established African Orthodox Church.

Responsible Leaders of the Movement – Fr. David Lakwo, Fr. Ocean Charalambos, Deacon Stephen. 

For further information on the situation, please contact Emmanuel Wanjala. Email:emmanuelwanjala010@gmail.com,
Phone No.+254745640781, Whatsapp+254745640781.
FB profile – https://www.facebook.com/wanjala.emmanuel.12

Fr.Ocen Charalambos, Email:ugandafather1973@gmail.com, Whatsapp +256753769679.
Fr.Benjamini Ojok,  Email: bbenjaminojok@gmail.com
Whatsapp  +256780206929)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the official policy or position of Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE or OCP Media Network.

Source:
OCP News Service