Mbarara: The Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Mr John Byabagambi, has criticised Pentecostal churches in Uganda for exploiting people.
Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of School of Nursing at Bishop Stuart University, Ruharo Campus in Mbarara District on Wednesday, Mr Byabagambi, who represented Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda as the chief guest, said government should arrest church leaders exploiting their followers.
“These churches are operating in an exploitative way. You have heard them say ‘bring a tenth of your wealth and we pray for you.’ Then they started selling rice, saying this is “holy rice” yet it is grown in Masindi and Kiryandongo,” the minister said.
He added: “Then someone sells water, which we all know is from a spring or underground but you see people lining up with jerrycans. These are the exploitative churches I am talking about. They have diverted from the mission of preaching the gospel, now I can say they are preaching evil because if they can exploit God’s people, then I can compare them with evil.’’
The minister said traditional churches in Uganda were built on the spirit of developing human beings and their livelihood through construction of schools, hospitals and other humanitarian oriented projects, unlike the Pentecostal churches, which he said are profit-oriented and taking advantage of the poor.
Last week, the media was awash with news of a city pastor who allegedly labelled his rice as “holy rice” and is selling it at Shs50,000 a kilogramme. A kilogramme of rice goes for Shs3,500 on the open market.
However, Pastor Cyrus Tayebwa, the provincial overseer of Ankole National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches, said: “There are many people who claim to be Born Again yet in reality, they are witchdoctors who have modernised their shrines into churches. We don’t ask people for money to pray for them, if people are to give tithe they give it to Jesus.”