By John Martin
Uganda remains restless after February’s disputed general elections. Opposition leaders say President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power more than 30 years, rigged the election.
In the latest development, main opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been imprisoned on charges of treason. Besigye was arrested May 11 when he swore himself into office before Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony. He made a court appearance in the northeast of the country.
Besigye, 60, leads the Forum for Democratic Change. He has been arrested several times since the disputed general election of Feb. 18. He has insisted he won the election with 52 percent of the votes, despite a government announcement that declared Museveni winner with 61 percent.
When the British ceded independence in Uganda in 1962, colonial authorities said they thought the former colony was one of the best prepared for self-government. That has proved wide of the mark.
Uganda suffered terribly under the regime of Idi Amin, who displaced the first president, Milton Obote, in a coup. Amin was responsible for the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum.
Museveni finally brought an end to a protracted civil war and many atrocities. Criticism is widespread after 30 years of his rule.
A court challenge to Museveni’s claimed victory found in his favor, much to the surprise of informed observers. Opponents claimed there was ample evidence of electoral malpractice.
The Forum for Democratic Change has adopted a strategy of nonviolent protest, including prayers at party headquarters and wearing black clothing every Thursday as symbolic mourning for the death of democracy in Uganda. The government in turn has tried to ban all forms of protest, including prayers deemed to have political undertones.
Besigye said at one prayer service in his hometown of Kasangati: “You all know that my victory was snatched, and it may take us long to win the struggle, but we cannot use violent means because we have all seen that the kind of revolution it brings is not always good.”
One of the key architects of these protests is the Rt. Rev. David Zac Niringiye, retired Assistant Bishop of Kampala, who for several years has been a vocal critic of Museveni’s regime.
Niringiye is a former regional director for Africa with the Church Mission Society, and spent 20 years in student ministry with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He is now a fellow at Uganda Christian University, leading a project on religion, culture, and public life.
Zen at York Minster: York Minster has witnessed much turbulent history. In 1,400 years it has stood firm amid civil wars, plague, and siege. When it was hit by lightning in 1984, some said it was divine retribution for the consecration the Rt. Rev. David Jenkins as Bishop of Durham.
Now it hosts a sangha (community or order) of silent Buddhist meditation for 90 minutes each Friday. The Rev. Canon Christopher Collingwood, canon chancellor, introduced the idea. He has long been an enthusiast for Zen practice.
Collingwood said Zen poses fewer problems than other non-Christian practises because it claims no system of doctrine or belief. He has described himself as “religiously bilingual,” with “a foot in more than one religious camp.” He maintains that the Christian tradition of contemplation has a close affinity with many Eastern meditation techniques.
About 20 people attend the sessions, which began more than two years ago. The project has fulsome support from the Very Rev. Vivienne Faull, Dean of York Minster.
“Buddhism contrasts sharply with Christian teaching about God,” said Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the London-based Christian Concern. “The two are incompatible. To try to mix them is deceptive and dishonors Jesus Christ.”
War Topples Ancient Pillar: St. Simeon Stylites, the fifth-century monk, is reported to have sat for 47 years in prayer and meditation atop a pillar. Now the ancient monastery dedicated to the saint and his pillar have become victims of Syria’s terrible civil war.
Reports say both the church and what is said to be the remains of the original pillar were damaged heavily by a Russian air strike.
St. Simeon climbed his pillar in A.D. 412 to escape hordes of disciples and pilgrims who constantly sought the holy man’s attention. He is said to have lived through an entire Lent without eating or drinking. He once stood stock still until finally collapsing. Both food and waste were winched on a pulley by village boys.
His fame spread after his death. Those who adopted his discipline were known as Stylites, from the Greek word for pillar. The monastery, near the besieged city of Aleppo, has for centuries been a center for tourism and pilgrimage.
During five years of civil war, it has fallen into different hands, among them Islamic State, Kurdish forces, the Free Syrian Army, and the government of Syria. Until now it was spared damage by Islamic State.
Amr al-Azm, a Syrian-American academic working to preserve Syria’s endangered heritage, said researchers believed Russian jets were responsible for a May 12 attack. He said in a preliminary report that the damage was devastating.
Zimbabwean Court Pauses: Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court has postponed its ruling as the Anglican Province of Central Africa seeks to recover U.S. $428,000 from Nolbert Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare.
Kunonga, a fervent supporter of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF Party, tried to stay in office after his appointment ended in 2008, and he tried to form a breakaway church. An audit authorized by the province showed that Kunonga and four of his lieutenants had sold church shares unlawfully.
In November 2012, Zimbabwe Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba ruled that Kunonga and his followers were no longer part of the Church of the Province of Central Africa and that he must surrender everything that belongs to the CPCA, including the value of shares he sold.