I know that I have written quite a bit about Uganda. But it was the kind of experience which you need to try and share. And here is something which makes a different kind of connection
Over Christmas, I’ve been reading Brian Walker’s book, ‘From Partition to Peace’. It tells the story of Ireland since Partition with a particular focus on what happened to the southern Irish Protestant minority. Inasmuch as I have a community of origin, this is it and there is growing interest in them at present as a piece of ‘forgotten history’
I can remember as a teenager in the 1960’s a point at which I began to believe that violence was coming – as it did from 1969 onwards, Strident certainties sounded ever more hollow. Brian Walker then charts the journey to a new kind of Ireland north and south – more open and more inclusive. That movement happens on many levels – he connects it to political movements in other parts of Europe where the frozen settlements of the 1920’s were breaking down. It’s political and religious. I think he could have given more emphasis to two among many other factors – the status of women in Ireland linked to the fall in the birth rate and the growth of secularisation,
In Uganda I found myself in the presence of a strongly-expressed orthodoxy about the ‘evil of homosexuality’. For me as for many other people, human sexuality issues are ‘work in progress’. But the word ‘evil’ doesn’t help us to answer complex questions, I can understand the more obvious reasons why they are where they are – the legacy of the East African revival, the pressure of hard-edged Islam moving south in Africa, the need for a ‘binding vision’ in a complex situation.
But even a fleeting visit was enough to see that change is coming. Uganda is experiencing economic growth – from a very low base; oil has been discovered and will probably lead both to more corruption and more prosperity; the next generation is becoming more independent-minded; secularisation will creep in on the back of prosperity.
The new Archbishop, Archbishop Stanley, will need all the skills and spiritual insight which he can muster to provide the kind of leadership which is needed. As for all of us, it gets more difficult and the hill gets steeper. But that is the reality of our calling.