Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gadaffi ridicules the Bible

KAMPALA - Christian leaders have condemned Libyan President Col. Muammar Gadaffi’s assertion last Wednesday that the Bible is a forgery, and have called for an apology for the remarks they say “ridicule the very foundation of the Christian faith.” A statement from the Church of Uganda called Gadaffi’s remarks “divisive” and “unfortunate”.

A dark cloud hang over the air as Christians celebrated Easter, the holiest festival in their religious calendar when they remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with the bulk of sermons condemning Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi's claims that the Bible is a forgery. The Christian leaders, however, were almost unanimous in their calls for Col. Gadaffi to be forgiven and his claims ignored. And, in a curious prediction, one of them speculated that the Libyan leader "will find difficulties in coming back to Uganda." The condemnations kept alive a wave of criticism in which Christian clerics have described Col. Gadaffi's remarks as divisive.

Col. Gadaffi, who last week visited Uganda to close the Afro-Arab Youth Festival and open the Gadaffi National Mosque on Old Kampala hill, questioned the Bible's authenticity during celebrations to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad. The maverick colonel has since left Uganda. Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, who had already denounced Col. Gadaffi's claims during Good Friday prayers at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium, the place where Col. Gadaffi had made his claims, asked Christians to forgive and forget. "I ask fellow Christians to forgive Gadaffi like Jesus forgave those people who crucified him on the cross," he said in his sermon to hundreds of Christians that turned out for Easter prayers at Rubaga Cathedral. The prelate told his congregation that Christians should not waste time on Col. Gadaffi's remarks, saying "there are more important issues to talk about". Namirembe Bishop Samuel Balagadde Ssekadde asked the government to give "terms of reference" to foreign dignitaries who are potentially divisive. "We should pray for such people who don't know that in Uganda, we have an Inter-religious Council that unites us regardless of our religious differences. Muslims and Christians live harmoniously without any problem," he said.

In his sermon at Namboole Stadium, Kampala Pentecostal Church's pastor Gary Skinner called on the faithful to shun all forms of sectarianism if they are to promote peace and stability in Uganda. "The remarks Gadaffi made were unfortunate and we rather forgive him, because Islam is an intolerant religion," he said. Another KPC pastor, Chris Komagum, said Col. Gadaffi's intention was to confuse, predicting that the Libyan leader "will find difficulties in coming back to Uganda." Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral's pastor Robert Kayanja said: "This man [Gadaffi], who came here and abused our holy book, has made us learn one thing: unity. We have to start seeing ourselves as Christians. Our enemies are organised and they have money." Preaching at his Rubaga-based church, Mr Kayanja said it is time for Christians, who are the majority in Uganda, to find economic emancipation. Christians account for more than 80 per cent of Uganda's 28 million people. "I have made my research in the last three days and discovered that major pork joints are owned by Muslims. They don't physically operate them but they are run by non-Muslims. They are strategic and each shilling counts," Mr Kayanja claimed, his audience chanting in approval.

At Christ the King Church in the city centre, Msgr Paul Ssemwogerere said Col. Gadaffi's claims are a result of an ignorant mind. But the parish priest insisted that "since the Muslim community has already distanced itself from Col. Gadaffi's sentiments, let's forgive him as Christians." Fr James Segul, a visiting reverend from Spain, told the congregation at Our Lady of Africa Church in Mbuya that Christians should resist the use of religion as a divisive tool. "As members of one family, we should promote peace, love and unity throughout the world," Fr. James said, apparently referring to the current fallout from Col. Gadaffi's claims on the authenticity of the Bible. "We ought to exercise respect for one another regardless of our different religious and other ideological affiliations."

In attacking the very basis of Christianity, Col. Gadaffi, a Muslim, argued that someone had deleted the name of Prophet Muhammad from the Bible. But Christian leaders, reacting to the Libyan leader's claims, noted that the Koran, Islam's holy book, was written long after the Bible. "To say that the Bible is a forgery because Prophet Muhammad is not included [is] distorting religious facts," said Dr Kizito Lwanga, preaching on Good Friday at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium. "The Koran came in 610 AD, long after the Bible [had been written], in 1450 BC. How can we be blamed for not including what was not in existence?"

On the issue of land, Dr Lwanga called for dialogue among all parties that are debating the Land Bill. He condemned character assassination, noting that it is destroying the country. "It is not good to abuse people or even disrespect them. Exchange of abusive words is even more repulsive," he said. The prelate noted that both President Museveni and Kabaka Mutebi have suffered from the resultant acrimony over the proposed land law reforms. "We leaders should be the ones to cure people's wounded hearts in view of a better country," he said.

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