Unification News for May 1998

1.5 Million Families Register in Uganda

by Tom Gawaya-Tegulle-Kampala, Uganda

Push has come to shove as what is no doubt the biggest religious movement to come to Uganda in recent times takes root. It is powerful, unprecedented, and serious; far too significant to be ignored. It has spread like a wild fire on dry bush and within a matter of months over 1.5 million families have become fully fledged members - for life.

According to Mrs. Eleanor Rutangye, Ugandan chapter co-president, several million people have joined the family Federation for World Peace (FFWP), an international movement started and launched at the global level in July 1996, Washington, USA by Rev. Sun Myung Moon of Korea.

The launch had all the markings of an occasion that could potentially alter the destiny of the planet. Almost every country in the world was represented. Dignitaries like former US presidents George Bush and Henry Ford [ed. Gerald Ford] and former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev were present. Uganda was represented by Jane Kuka, Minister of State for Gender and Community Development, and also patron of the federation's Uganda chapter.

That was 1996, and nobody thought - even as a joke - that it would affect small nations like Uganda. But like the proverbial small mustard seed that grows into a large tree, FFWP has taken the country by storm.

The signals are clear. FFWP Uganda chapter, which started formally operating May 1997, under co-presidents Martin and Eleanor Rutangye, is here to stay. The movement also has special departments for women and youth.

"FFWP is an international movement raised out of concern about the failure of the family unit," says Martin. "We are drawing attention to global family ideal as a basis for creating world peace. If we are to attain world peace it has to start with the family unit, which is the basic building block in society. We want to build peaceful, united and harmonious families. To ensure this, unity, absolute love, trust, communication and mutual concern between husband and wife are a must."

The rationale is that a peaceful family is a good basic training for the kids who in turn will be in a better position to set up similar families.

"The divorce rate in the US is rising," explains Martin. "About half of the children grow up in broken families, without parental love and care. So despite the riches they enjoy while still young, they get frustrated and end up in bad company, with lots of sex and drugs. That's why the US also has the highest teenage suicide rate.

"Things like marriage by contract are not ideal," says Martin. "Neither is it ideal for women to say, 'I want a child, but without a husband,' or 'I like you, let's have a kid.' Ideally a child is supposed to be brought up by two parents. Such basic ideals have to be promoted worldwide."

Our society, especially the future generation, argues Martin, needs to be protected from such phenomena. AIDS and STDs also have to be addressed, so that by the 21st century the world view will have been changed. FFWP asserts that mistrust in love and the misuse of sex pose the greatest challenge to family life and advocate for faithfulness within a monogamous union as the only viable panacea to stability.

"Love is very difficult to share, and was not meant to be shared in the first place. Not even the polygamists would like to share their wives with other men," says Martin.

The movement is multi-denominational, and has established branches in many districts of Uganda, headed by a volunteer coordinator. John Mbotana, a former Catholic priest, is the coordinator in Kamuli district, and has embraced the movement with the enthusiasm of a cat drinking milk.

"We want to form stable loving families based on God, and with improved socio- economic advancement," he says. "We want the youth to grow up in purity, abstaining from sex till marriage; and that they participate in development programs, e.g., studies, agriculture; small scale industries and sports and games.

"Our approach is wholistic. We want both spiritual and physical development, so that we can have peaceful homes, which will result in peaceful districts and in turn, peaceful nations and, eventually, a peaceful world. We emphasize environmental care because we believe we need to care, love before using it. As for now we are just exploiting it - to our destruction, and the disadvantage of humanity as a whole.."

He has an "army" of volunteers, whose efforts yielded 5,000 families between May and December 1997, in Kamuli district. First, the agents inform area LCs about their presence, and sensitize them about their mission. They then arrange meetings in which they educate the people about their objectives. The families fill in special forms, after which they are registered. VIPs are given special forms "to recognize their importance and uniqueness."

Usually the first step is campaigning for environmental care. "We advise the people to grow fruits, green vegetables and woodlands, and also to rear small animals like goats, chickens and rabbits," says Mbotana.

"We also advise people to have improved fireplaces, pit latrines and clean drinking water. No one can be registered unless they have a pit latrine."

The response is so far overwhelmingly positive and in many places, the peasants have already embarked on vegetable growing and animal rearing. They are encouraged in particular, to grow the neem, a tree with 40 medicinal properties. Its seeds can produce cooking oil, the trunk produces timber, and its leaves repel cockroaches, banana weevils and other garden pests. Seeds will soon be provided to local people at a low cost.

Hajati Kasibante is the coordinator, Mpigi district, where over 30,000 families have been registered. She is an AIDS counselor attached to Nkozi Hospital, who after considering the objectives of the FFWP thought it would be helpful in the fight against AIDS.

"I watched some of their films on AIDS and decided people would need them," she recalls. FFWP advocates for a preventive approach to AIDS, a major boost to a district which has been severely hit by the AIDS epidemic. She guessed right: the fear of AIDS had an immediate effect on the population, many were beaten into line. After watching films provided by the FFWP, on the horrors of AIDS and STDs, thousands rushed to make vows - of faithfulness and monogamy.

"Before the coming of AIDS few would ever think seriously of fidelity," says Hajati. "The first to join FFWP were AIDS widows, for fear of being seduced, by men who would easily infect them with more complex diseases. Married women, elderly men with young wives, and young married couples like it very much because it ensures fidelity," says the heavy set Hajati. She suggests the fear of AIDS, rather than the desire for stable marriage, is the main drive behind the rush for vows. Imperatively, too, those infected want to live longer and care for their families, while the healthy too want a clean bill of health.

"Men were difficult at first," she recalls. "Most thought they would be bound to one woman and if they failed, be imprisoned." But eventually common sense carried the day. In Kituntu sub-county, Mawakota, people are electing committees in order to get projects. Every parish has a FFWP committee. Since July 1997, FFWP has provided seeds which are planted in a central nursery in the parish and then the seedlings are distributed free. More projects are in the pipeline if this one does well.

Religious barriers have been cast aside as Muslims, Christians and traditionalists alike join FFWP. The Coordinator of the FFWP Mukono Chapter, Hajii Umar Nsubuga, is just one of the many Muslims who head district chapters.

Membership also cuts across the social strata; both the high and mighty and the rank and file are now birds of the same feather. They are all united in the desire to fight AIDS, achieve stable families and ensure peace. Many top shots and former LCs are members. RDC Rose Mutonyi, former LCV secretary for women Ruth Mirembe, former mayor Mr. Lubega and his assistant Haji Kasule are all members.

In an unprecedented trend, many Muslims are resorting to monogamy. And the Muslim women are not taking it lying down. "As a Muslim I have to fight so that I remain the only wife in the home," says Kasibante. "That's very important so that his love remains undivided. Muslim men now realize that in a polygamous marriage faithfulness is very difficult; it's impossible. A mistake by one person could wipe out the whole family."

FFWP's efforts have not come to naught. "There has been remarkable behavioral change," says Kasibante. "The public vows bind people to a consistent lifestyle. They reject promiscuity because they are ashamed to be seen to be failing. Even those who want to deliberately infect others have been sensitized on how to live positively. Many no longer spread the virus after infection; but now after counseling, they are anxious to prolong their lives because they realize they are still useful to the nation. Both AIDS widows and widowers now behave better," she observes.

The affianced no longer trust each other: they only now marry after blood tests. There has also been a reduction in the divorce rate, because couples fear embarrassment since they publicly vowed not to leave each other.

"At least I can now trust my husband: since he was taught by FFWP, I know he is faithful. That's what usually breaks marriages," says Nakimuli Agnes.

Many men now entrust their wives with their secrets, because they are sure they are there to stay. For those who remain with one wife, the latter now accepts to accept to look well after their step-kids, so that the husband does not regret and retreat to their mother, or other women. Hajati Kasibante has five kids and two others from her one time co-wife. She recently transferred her step-daughter Aisha from St. Mary's Nkozi to the superior Bulo Parents SSS, Butambala, to make her feel equal to her own Junat in S.6 at Bulo.

"She doesn't feel inferior, so I now want to see how their father will start complaining that they are being mistreated."

In the Youth Federation one has to test HIV negative before being allowed to join - so that it makes sense to start saving sex for till marriage. If they want, spouses are selected for them from other chapters of FFWP. They are tested and if found HIV negative they are photographed and their photos sent to potential spouses.

The kids are kept busy with meetings, seminars, etc., in order to get their minds off immorality. "The kids work hard and behave well; so if you get a spouse from FFWP, you are sure you have a very good one," says Agnes.

In Kamuli people have been sensitized about the need to be faithful in marriage and how to avoid AIDS and STDs. Life skills are also being imparted in these workshops. And for those behind the scenes, working with FFWP provides unbeatable job satisfaction because they feel it's a noble cause they are promoting.

Comments Mbotana: "Establishing FFWP in Kamuli has given me the greatest satisfaction because it's what I would have been doing as a priest - the moral and spiritual development of the family, women and youth groups, by shaping their conscience to enable them to be useful members of society. By the year 2000, if people are consistent with their vows, the AIDS situation will have greatly improved. We are adding value to life. We shall not accept to die just like that," sums up Kasibante.

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