Speech by Hon Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo during the Closure of the 2nd BAF National Leaders’ Convention
Praise the Lord!
Apostle Dr. Joseph Serwadda, The Guild Bishops, The Regional Bishops, Districts Bishops, The Pastors, The faithful of the Born Again Faith, Ladies and gentlemen,
If you put yourselves in my shoes, you would probably sense how totally overtaken, overwhelmed and consumed a person called Rev. Fr. Simon Lokodo is. Those are my names; I am also the Member of Parliament representing the people of Dodoth County from Karamoja.
At first I thought I was making a mistake because I had served as a direct apostle for a period of 17 years. So I thought to go to politics would be abandoning the flock. Then I remembered, it is said: vox populi, vox Dei: the voice of the people is the voice of God! God speaks through men. Since they elected me, I had in their votes the voice of God sending me to serve in Government.
I thought I had to remain a Member of Parliament like many of others are, but again, beyond my expectation; I got the greatest shock of my life! I was picked by the sharp eye of the appointing authority and was appointed Minister in the Government of Uganda. Even here I thought I was making a mistake, to give you my consent. Again I believed the saying that when God wants to reach you, he does it through men. So God spoke again to me. I served in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry as the Minister of State for Industry and Technology. So, I was advocating for transformation of the people of Uganda from peasantry to a modern, monetized and industrialized country.
Again I fought a war in myself and I was like: what am I doing advocating materialism and spending all my energies only to enhance the human part of the person and not the spiritual? Then I remembered that Jesus in His own entity and Person combined a minimum of 4 activities in His apostolate:
- He was a Preacher.
- He didn’t sit back to wait for providence to come from heaven. He was a Carpenter, worked for His daily existence
- He was too humane – He fed the hungry and
- He was full of mercy and compassion for others. He cured the sick. If Jesus was able to combine that, why can’t I combine materialism and spirituality; politics and church.
So I took my commitment as God ordained ministry being both in Government and as a minister of the church and I didn’t see incompatibility in my existence in the three or two entities or identities. Then again God spoke, He said ‘Lokodo the best way you can amalgamate the two identities that are in you is taking the responsibility of being a person who on behalf of government will empower Ugandans to uphold moral values and principles’. This was in my appointment and reconfirmed appointment recently as the Minister in charge of Ethics and Integrity in the office of the President. In that capacity I feel elated, I feel fulfilled, I feel realized when I am with brother and sisters who are true citizens of Uganda, believing in God and concerned to their nation, true to their motto “For God and my Country”.
So I thank God for being here this afternoon. And, allow me to express my deeply and profound felt regrets for not having been here for the whole period of this activity which I would have loved very much except for state responsibility again which I got through your prayers by invocation to God so I was also serving the state and Ugandans elsewhere but didn’t like to make any mistake and especially the greatest mistake of missing out all together that is why I made it a point to be here late though but not having missed. Praise the Lord!
I want to express my sincere thanks to Apostle Joseph, the entire committee which organized this convention, all the leaders of the faith and you all members of the faithful Born Again Faith. I want to thank you for having invited me to join you and above all close your convention.
But before I perform that function, allow me say a few words to this God fearing congregation. I bring you greetings from H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda. He is aware of this gathering and he wants to assure you that he is part of this congregation. Not only because he is a member but above all because his mother was a staunch member and founder of the Born Again Faith in his village. He always quotes her as the mentor, the spiritual originator of his faith in the Born Again Faith.
I convey to you greetings from the Directorate of Ministry of Ethics and Integrity and in general the Office of the Presidency. Every time we see men and women gathered together to express their citizenry and express their faith in the Almighty and show their commitment to patriotism advocating values of unity, peace and harmonious co-existence, we feel elated and can only say ‘Praise be to God’. Friends I wish to begin by dearly thanking you for the immense work that you are doing alongside with the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
I want to thank you for being men and women of prayer because through your prayers God has continuously blessed Uganda. Because of your faith, Uganda is the Pearl of Africa. Because of your intercession, Uganda continues to enjoy opportunities of blessedness. A land of plenty! A land of beauty! A land of prosperity! A land of peace and harmony! These are fruits of the prayer of the God fearing people like you. Because of your prayers, we can also enjoy earthly praise. Because of your prayers, the anthem of Uganda was sung in London at the closing of the Olympics. Tell me whenever has that ever happened until again through your prayers Kiprotich over-ran them and brought us a gold medal. That’s why we should continue to praise and thank God for His goodness and especially for responding to our humble prayers and intercession.
Brothers and sisters, the power of prayer is insurmountable. An English word says and this is what I am appealing to you P U S H simply pronounced push which means PRAY UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS. It’s only people with little faith or no faith at all who behave like an ostrich who when chased by the Karamojong poachers runs and buries its head in the sand and wait for death. Not so for men and women of great faith like you! So, I appeal to you brother and sisters we still have a lot of challenges and therefore don’t cease to pray. Follow the example of Jesus. He didn’t get lost in His ministry but always withdrew to pray. You see that! Even when he had fed the thousand, even when he had preached to thousands, he was there yonder, searched for by the apostles because he had gone to pray all by Himself.
I want you to pray and continue to pray for the country Uganda for its leadership, for its citizenry, and for its land. So that leaders may be God fearing and lead the people with fear of God and aim at peace, tranquility, harmony and positive co-existence. That you may continue to pray that Ugandans remain men and women who are conscious of their origin none of us can cause even one single hair of his or her head to be there. None of us is so young as not to die today and none of us is so old that cannot live a day more. Why? Because you and me cannot determine the youthness or the age in time!
So I want you to pray for Ugandans that they may understand they are there not of their making but because of the ordination of the Almighty. And therefore every conduction of our life must be first of all to recognize He is there then to love our neighbors as we love ourselves says St. John, you. “You cannot pretend to love God who is so far there and you don’t love your neighbor.”
Then, I plead with you that you pray that this land of Uganda remains a land of plenty where milk and honey flows, a land full of value and a land that can nourish and give every life to these Ugandans. I have lived to see, I have experienced that the Born Again Faith leads in the Spirit of prayer. So I want to thank God because of you. I want to really raise my hands up to God thanking Him for having raised even among the Ugandans men and women with the spirit of prayer, love for neighbors, and spirit of glorifying God in the attitude of the Born Again Faith.
My dear friends, religion has been described negatively by the non- God fearing people. They even call it the opium of society. It’s a pity. This has been pronounced and I want to pray God that He doesn’t hold His hand heavily on such insensitivity. No creature on earth will ever not recognize the presence of God! I could spend all the time here to convince you that God exists but I can give you only one analogy; that of cause and effect. Start now. Who are you? How did come to be? How did the one who made you come to be? Go on and on until there will be an uncaused cause. That is the reality that existed beyond time and will live beyond time, it’s called God and religion is exactly the recognition of that entity. So I want to thank whoever enlightened the people of Uganda that on the day they were pronouncing their motto they thought of these fundamental realities so that Ugandans today are identified as men and women who love God and love their land. This is what I have read in the lives of the Born Again faithful, everywhere I see them, they praise God and thank God for mother earth.
My dear friends, I want to insist that denying the existence of God is self-annihilation and therefore I want to thank God that Uganda is a country that entertains religiosity. Apostle Dr Joseph Serwadda said, “If the Constitution of Uganda deprives Ugandans of anything, at least it leaves Ugandans to express their faith freely in the freedom of worship”.
Secondly these can’t have been human assertions. God must have intervened here and inspired that Ugandans who made sure that in the supreme law in this country, there is freedom of worship, freedom of religious expression. The Balokole have a right to glorify God freely without fear or intimidation, even as others. Then of course also the others can do it in their own way and express their fear of the Almighty. This is the greatest gift that Uganda can give to Ugandans. This is your right. This is your privilege and God given freedom. To praise and thank your God and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This is the fear of God.
I would have spent some time going back to the roots of religion, but you know that we got this again thanks to the spirit of missionaries. Jesus is born today, He is alive today, He is doing miracles today, He is preaching today, He is dying on the cross today, He is rising today, thanks to the missionary spirit. Today, we are here, so we are not living in history. We are living here and now, facts of the hour. So Jesus handed to His apostles, the apostles handed to the missionaries and the missionaries have handed this over to us and we believe Jesus is speaking to us today. The Kingdom of God is at hand. I would like to say that the missionary spirit must not stop with us. Just as we received, we must also give.
We believe because others preached to us so we too must preach to others so that the continuity of the transmission of the faith in Jesus Christ must not end it will go until perpetuity. So I am glad that the faithful of the Born Again Faith have maintained this apostleship. Now, the reason really why I wanted to say a word is this, that we need to live in unity. St. John in his gospel says, Jesus before leaving prayed for unity of his disciples. His words are “Father that they maybe one as You and Me are.
So I want to thank everybody who has advocated for joint Christian expression of faith and worship. I have always been supportive to my President when he says he wants Ugandans to live in harmony. We should not be torn apart because of our faith beliefs. Let’s be relaxed in our way of expressing our faith to our God but be united because we are professing the same God. We had this experience in the earlier of our political turmoil, where this faith brought division in the country.
Faith brought division in ideology. Faith based promoted tribalism. So, DP was for Catholics and UPC for Protestants. This should not happen in our time. May God strengthen the Joint Christian Council and the Inter Religious Council so that our way of expression is like when the Karamojong sings there, a Muganda sings here, the Musoga sings on the other side! We are singing the same song to God but in different languages but we are doing exactly the same thing.
So I challenge you leaders, I challenge you Christians, let’s be different but be united. Unity in diversity! What do you see in front of you here? Me, Lokodo. But Lokodo is a composite of the parts of the body, he is the head, he is the hands, the legs the stomach, all of them perform their respective roles in order to enhance the satisfaction of this body or person called Lokodo. So the same thing with us, Catholics, Protestants, Born Again, Pentecostals, God bless you all of them are men and women who profess the existence of God and they are in Uganda. Because of the apparent situation of this wrangling within us in our house I appealed to the Cabinet of Uganda and asked them to recognize the importance of religiosity and religion in our country.
Just as it’s recognized in Italy, in Germany, in Spain, there is an identified department or mission dedicated only to settle and harmonize issues of religious nature. And I read through the past as my Apostle Dr Joseph Serwadda said, it even happened in the most awkward times of the governance of this country. That there was a designation for a person to handle religious affairs in government not knowing that it was meant to give support only to the promulgation of their own religion so that brothers like mine, Apostle Joseph were made to run away in exile because Uganda was not a home to express Christianity.
So I have written to all the leaders of different denominations, different faiths in this country and I am appealing to them to support me in this country towards the creation of a Department of Religious Affairs in Government. This is because I am not going to allow for as long as this small responsibility is on my shoulders to have the faith based entities registered as Non Government Organizations, absolutely NO. Faith Based Organizations are not social entities, are not charity operators, are not handling humanitarian activities, NO.
These faith based organizations are nothing else but faith based. They cannot be mingled and confused with NGOs or civil society organizations. NO. The NGOs, the Civil Society Organizations can go and register themselves with the NGO board in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. And the faith based will stand out there as an independent exclusive entity of expression of faith and concern for humanity and must have its own stand of reference in government. Of course you are not NGOs that you are going to be subjected to accountability; you are not going to be subjected to unscrupulous things like that. You are answerable to the Almighty and not to humanity and only registered by God and not by people.
And so my appeal to government, my appeal to Ugandans, my appeal to the leaders of Faith Based Organizations that we detach you from that false association that they had put you in because you are not part and parcel of them, they are not even biblical and so how do you fit in there anyway? So I want to really ask your prayer that God may bless this intention because the Faith Based Organizations go beyond the obvious. Their vision, their goal, their target is far, far reaching than this so called CSOs & NGOs.
I want to say again something that has given me pain since I took charge of the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity. The Directorate of Ethics and Integrity in the Office of the President is mandated to empower Ugandans to uphold moral values and principles. One example of unprincipled behavior of our brothers and sister in responsibility is that of corruption. The Directorate of Ethics and Integrity is also mandated to coordinate Government’s efforts in the fight against corruption. I can’t advocate this with the NGOs. I can’t advocate this with the CSOs because they are part and parcel of the same calamities. Who wants to be associated with such people? For me I said no. The Faith Based Organization entities are pro-people because they are the blood vessels that coordinate the existence of humanity, cut that then there is hemorrhage and all humanity is dead. Have you heard of this?
There are values in life. One is wealth, the second is health and the last one is character, conscience. If you lose money, wealth, you have lost nothing you can still live. The providence of God is there. Didn’t you hear about Elijah crossing the entire desert and had bread? You lose your health you get frailty in you an ailment you have lost something. You will be forced to behave like Job. God what are you doing? Why waste time, take me away now because this suffering is just beyond measure, because you have been made by the ailment. So you have lost something. But when you lose character, when you lose conscience, when you lose your heart you are dead alive.
What I know is the Faith Based Organizations are the people who possess the right value, character and therefore you are fully alive not partially, but fully alive because the reality of life in you is unmaking every existence in you. I talked about wealth. With only one offertory collection, you can a thousand people because that generosity flows from your heart. How many times in your faith expression even in a gathering like this have you healed and cured the sick cast away demons in these churches without money? Because of faith, because of the conscience which is right, you are the blood, the blood vessel in this country. Uganda is, because you are and since you are therefore we shall be!
Now hear my heart bleed. Next month on 24th I will be standing before the Courts of Law; that I have been accused for not respecting human rights, and the human rights that I infringed on my brothers and sisters was my two occasions of dispersing gatherings that were aimed at promoting Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals. And I have been receiving threats from the western world for doing such a thing and I am accused of being hard on these types of people. I believe and I am strongly convinced that this is the way God wants me to be and walk in this country.
So I know all the cultures of Uganda, all the customs of Uganda, the rituals of Uganda, all the laws of Uganda, shun, denounce and condemn these orientations. Therefore, through you I got this mandate. There is no way I can betray you. Therefore upon this head I will never, never and never allow the approval and the recognition of these type of people in this country; NO.
The Department of Religious Affairs will harmonize Government and Religious Organizations, programs and activities. This will ensure national stability as well as social harmony. It will promote an orderly society that appreciates unity in diversity. It will build an information sharing system that enhances government planning process and it will harness the potential of religion in fostering ethical values and principles. My dear brothers and sisters, I want you to hear from me today that the Government of Uganda strongly believes, in the indispensability of Faith Based Organization. The government recognizes the important role that the Faith Based Organizations play in the settling down, tranquilization and harmonization of this society, Uganda. The contribution of the faith-based entities to this country is admirable and greatly commendable.
On behalf of government therefore, I pledge to give all that it needs to support the Born Again Faith Communities and will endeavor to do all in my means to ensure that you are able to express yourselves spontaneously as you remain members of the Faith Based Organizations as a recognized entity, the Born Again Faith. Thank you. For God and my Country and God bless you.