What you need to know:
Thou shalt NOT count me. The just concluded 2014 Population and Housing Census seemed a good plan until some cult members refused to be counted, after their leaders like Francis Tibangwa and John Atugonza, from Hoima District told them census was satanic using Bible verses as reference. Such were arrested and charged with disobeying lawful orders. Henry Lubega explores this cultic tendency.
It started out with some musicians like Bobi Wine composing a song titled Census in a bid to campaign and encourage the citizens to actively participate in the national Census of 2014. While some were busy asking about where the exercise would take place and others scooping job titles as enumerators, there were groups that were far from that.
From Sironko to Budaka in Eastern Uganda, all the way to Masaka and Ibanda in the west, they all said the same thing.
Close to 100 people were arrested and others prosecuted for disobeying lawful orders because their ‘religion’ forbade them from being counted.
Police in Masaka and census enumerators went to the extent of invading a cult in Kyabakuza village in Masaka Municipality where members who had refused to be counted were enumerated forcibly. More than 100 followers of the sect at the ‘Palace of peace’ claimed the cult does not allow them to be counted because God, who is their creator, already counted them. Also, being counted is a sin forbidden by the bible according to the leaders of Nyangakeibo in Ibanda, Enjiri in Sironko and 666 in Budaka sects and their followers .
The bible and census
The leaders of these groups quote from the Bible verse Numbers 24:4 to justify to their followers why being counted is anti-religious and against biblical teaching, thus dissuading them from being involved in the census.
In that particular scripture, they use the example of King David who carried out a census against God’s approval and God punished him.
Ironically, the same Bible talks of the different censuses that were carried out with God’s approval with no negative consequences. For instance, in Numbers 1:4, God commanded Moses and Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to carry out a census among the children of Israel to know the number of men who can serve in the army of Israel.
Just before Jesus’ birth, Caesar Augustus, the Emperor of Rome issued a decree that a census be carried out. Jesus’s parents travelled from Nazareth to Jerusalem Joseph’s home to be counted, (Luke 2:1-5).
Cult teachings versus census
According to Robby Muhumuza, a researcher in religious cults, cult leaders apply the bible interpretation differently to suit their interests.
“Cult leaders are not well-schooled in the Bible or Koran which makes them very likely to misinterpret them. They preach against the census because God punished King David for having carried out a census that God had forbade him from carrying out. And they do not go ahead to explain to their followers that God was reacting to David’s disobedience not the act of carrying out the census.”
The researcher further says, cult leaders go beyond stopping their followers from being counted to accessing other services that require them to have documents with numbers.
The cult members say, once they are identified by numbers they are going to face the wrath of God because having a number is a sign that you worship the Beast.
“Cult leaders don’t allow their followers to have mobile phones because they are going to have a number with which they are to be identified during registration. Also, the members are not supposed to have driving permits, and not take their children for immunisation, because they will be given numbers on their immunisation cards.
They are told not to attend schools because under UPE, children are numbered as a basis for government to remit money. And what government may have not noticed is that because of the fear of numbers, many of these cult followers did not participate in the National ID registration for the same reason of not getting a number,” he says.
The fear for taking part in anything that would require them to have numbers is derived from Revelation13:15-18 and 14:-9-11, which talks of the Beast and the numbers that its followers will have.
Cult leaders thus make their followers believe that if they are put into the government system and given numbers, they will be disobeying God and the likely result is punishment.
What is a cult?
The word “cult” comes from the Latin word Cultus which means ‘to worship or give reverence to a deity’. Therefore, a cult is a not-so-well-known religion often reflecting deviations from the central teachings and practices of the well-known religions in one or more aspects of spiritual life.
In the Christian perspective, a cult is a religious group which deviates from the historical teachings of the scripture either in parts or in totality.
Cults in Uganda
Uganda has had her share of different sorts of cults, some of which are locally started others are imported into the country under the guise of global village experience. Africa Centre for apologetics Research’s website, has listed more than 30 cults operating in Uganda, which however does not include Kibwetere’s Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God and the late Wilson Bushara’s World Last Message Warning Church.
On the list are groups whose origins are not from Uganda, but just spread into Uganda. These include Kibanguism from Congo, Legio Maria from Kenya and a host of others from Europe and America. The Ugandan cults listed on the Apologetics website include Serulanda started by Bambi Baaba Mugonza, Church of Isa Masiya started by Nabi Besweri Kaswabuli.
It is difficult to explain why people join cults. Different reasons have been advanced for people joining these cults, but according to a book, False Teachings and False Teachers, there are both external and internal factors that compel people to join cults. The book lists external factors like loneliness and poor social skills, low self-esteem, poverty, promises of life saving miracles among others. Internal factors include
However Muhumuza adds that human beings by nature have a desire to believe in something beyond them.
“Religion plays a big role in human life, as a result when one comes in guise of spiritual leader while identifying with human needs, speaks the same language people will easily identify with that person very easy.”
Resist a cult
*Avoid those who insult your faith.
*Look for one person who is in complete control. Cults almost always have that central leader. If this person founded the cult and later died, there may now be a small group of people who control everything.
*Read about the religion and find out if it is legal.
* Avoid groups or people that try to impose rules on the non-moral aspects of your life like who you talk to or where to shop from.
Characteristics of cults
They are usually linked to a founder who claims special revelation and unique teaching from God.
Leaders demand for total dependency on his or her teachings and everything in the group revolves around him or her.
These cults claim that their beliefs and teachings are the only correct ones.
Cult leaders don’t entertain questions from their followers and those who insist on asking are either persecuted by the group or thrown out.
Members are sometimes encouraged to disassociate from the rest of their family who don’t belong to the group Followers are not independent to make personal decisions when it comes to things like marriage, work, business, travels, health and others without the approval of their leaders.
There is excessive demand for material things and money