Cover Story

Africa's hinge

"Africa's hinge" Continued...

Issue: "The Battle for Africa," Feb. 8, 2014

Seed projects demonstrate to Ugandans that God can use meager local resources to bless a community. The projects demonstrate that Ugandans don’t have to wait for outsiders to come and fix problems, and that God cares about the physical well-being of His children, not just the spiritual.

• The fourth approach is straightforward evangelism: We watched 40 Anglican youth and student coordinators learn about street evangelism and then head out in a bus, in a van, and by foot to go door-to-door. Evangelist John Nicholas Okwalinga and retired Covenant College professor Henry Krabbendam stopped at one cement-walled, metal-roofed house lingering amid hard-packed red clay and mango, avocado, and banana trees. They knocked on the door and a young mother, Maria, opened it, as a runny-nosed toddler in a T-shirt and beaded bracelets on both wrists tugged on her dress. Maria set down two empty plastic jerry cans for water, and her little girl started climbing on them.

Okwalinga and Krabbendam didn’t mince words: Citing biblical references, they told Maria that she has a cobra heart (Psalm 58:3-4), a past filled with excrement (Isaiah 64:6), and a destructive life (Romans 3:12-16). They told her about a crucified Jesus who eradicates the cobra heart, purges the excrement past, and changes the toxic life. They said through His resurrection Jesus supplies a new heart, new righteousness, new holiness. The woman listened, then welcomed the Bible they gave her and their pledge to return and see how she’s doing.

ALL FOUR OF THESE CHRISTIAN EFFORTS fight a prevalent fatalism—the idea that Ugandans are born poor and will die poor, throughout their lives controlled by curses and witchcraft. For eons hunger and grinding poverty—consequences of this worldview dominated by the need to avoid upsetting evil spirits—have plagued Uganda. British control from the late 19th century to 1962 brought missionaries but also European materialism. Now, the Chinese government is buying up mineral rights throughout Africa, while Muslims, who once enslaved many in East Africa, seek to enslave their posterity in a works-based religion that persecutes other faiths. 

Islamists offer dollars and a promised land of dolls to young men willing to give their lives to kill Christians and Jews. Other Muslims purchase wives from nominally Christian Ugandan fathers who are willing—if there’s enough money in it— to have their daughters become Muslims. Some Ugandans would rather be employed Muslims than unemployed Christians. A variety of quasi-Christian ministries have fought back by offering their own rewards through a prosperity gospel. Faith healers have found a market: When Benny Hinn came to Kampala, some Ugandans arrived six hours early to get a place. 

In Uganda now, rapidly increasing cohabitation is undermining marriage. Alcohol consumption is massive. Old superstitions, such as gaining a feeling of security by carrying the skin or hair of a lion, remain. Muslims say they revere marriage so much that every woman must be in one, along with up to three other wives. Muslims say they throw out bottles and superstition. Christians need to demonstrate the ability to demolish vicious cycles of apathy, corruption, poverty, disease, and degeneration.

Some believe Uganda can escape eventual Muslim dictatorship by developing secular, materialist institutions such as Makerere University, the Harvard of Uganda—but it is the type of institution that generates liberal opposition to Islamic revolutions and then goes under when the tide rises. Soft secular faiths have not competed well against Islam’s scimitar-edged ferocity, particularly when they provide occasional circuses but insufficient amounts of bread. 

That’s particularly true when politicians who claim the mantle of Christ offer honeyed words but corrupt practices. In December an international NGO, Transparency International, released its 2013 Corruption Perception Index: Uganda dropped from a miserable 130th place to an even worse 140th. Also in December, the African Development Bank noted that Uganda has an external debt of $5.5 billion, but from 2002 to 2011 more than $7 billion obtained by individuals through corrupt means flowed into bank accounts and tax havens outside of Uganda. 

The Transforming Nations Alliance contends that “[Ugandan] Christians are still very shallow in their understanding of Scripture and still have a mindset locked in the animistic worldview that is fatalistic … hence the poverty, social instability, domestic violence, and other social problems that bedevil the nation. The level of corruption is so high that the stability of the nation is seriously threatened.” ABU student Garnet Kibombwe wrote thoughtfully about the problem and asked, “What does Christ think when he sees us giving and taking bribes, cheating, abusing people …?”

South of the Sahara, the number of Muslim adherents has gone from 11 million in 1900 to 234 million in 2010, and the number of those professing Christ during that time period has soared from 7 million to 470 million. Yet, TNA reports that “while many Sub-Saharan African countries boast of large Christian populations, their impact or influence is hardly seen or noticed in the real world. The Church in these nations has largely lost credibility and is accused of being totally irrelevant in society.”

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