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Security Crackdown Underway in Gulu as Police Probe Controversial Sermon

In the sermon, Bishop Gakumba was accused of declaring war on Catholicism by burning articles of Catholic worship during an ongoing open air crusade convened by a team of pastors from the born-again faith in Acholi sub-region.
Bishop of Diocese of Northern Uganda Johnson Gakumba

Audio 6

A massive security crackdown is underway in Gulu district as Police investigate a controversial sermon attacking the Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda, Johnson Gakumba.

In the sermon, Bishop Gakumba was accused of declaring war on Catholicism by burning articles of Catholic worship during an ongoing open air crusade convened by a team of pastors from the born-again faith in Acholi sub-region.

The month-long crusade has since been suspended by security on grounds that it posed a security threat to the people of Gulu and Uganda and precursor for a more serious religious conflict. The suspension was based on a nine-minute audio recording quoting Father Charles Onen, a Catholic priest attached to Holy Rosary Catholic Parish in Gulu Town.

In the audio, Father Onen attacked organizers of the Crusade for burning several articles of worship for the Catholic Church. He attacked the Crusade for preaching against the Catholic doctrines and beliefs. Father Onen singled out Bishop Johnson Gakumba, the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda for burning rosaries and insulting mother Mary and Crucifix of Jesus Christ.

The priest also accused politicians of spying on the Catholic Church and the pastors of invading the privacy of people with fertility problems by anointing their private parts with oil.

Following the Bickering, a general enquiries file was opened to ascertain the allegations, according to Gulu District Police Commander Emmanuel Mafundo. He said that a number of people have been lined up for interrogation.

Pastor Benjamin Oteka, the Senior Pastor of Faith Center Cathedral in Gulu district and lead preacher at the Crusade has already been interrogated by Police about the allegations that had triggered anxiety among members of different faiths in the district.

Pastor Oteka told URN after interrogation that Police wanted to know which articles were burnt at the crusade.

 

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Gulu Resident District Commissioner Captain Santos Okot Lapolo said that organizers of the Crusade are under investigation for burning articles of worship of other faith. He said the crusade was stopped to prevent a religious conflict.

Captain Lapolo says Father Charles Onen; the Priest who authored the sermon is wanted to answer to charges of defamation among others. The sermon which was relayed live on Radio Maria and widely shared on social media pages has thrown the religious unity in the district into a big test as Father Onen threatened to reject the participation of Anglican Church in the Public Way Of The Cross.

 

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Also under investigation is Gulu based blogger and Social Media Journalist Willy Chowoo, for libel after he shared the sermon on social media.

Bishop Johnson Gakumba says he was badly framed in the sermon and is considering legal action against the Catholic priest and organizers of the crusade for using his portrait without his consent.

 

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Bishop Gakumba says although he is wounded, he has forgiven those behind the sermon.

 

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Francis Lukwiya, the Program Coordinator of Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative says it is regrettable that the sermon has put the long-standing religious unity in the district to test.

 

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Religious institutions in Gulu district have a long history of interfaith cooperation under the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI). The collaboration was born out of the struggle for peaceful resolution of the Lord's Resistance Army conflict.

 It is currently headed by the Archbishop of Gulu archdiocese John Baptist Odama and deputized by Sheik Musa Khelil. Other religious institutions in the initiative include orthodox, born-again faith, Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Church of Uganda.