To this day, Uganda boasts of a number of imported religions. Yet beside what are known to be the traditional denominations, as installed by the earliest missionaries, Uganda has since embraced a myriad of new forms of worship with their unique ways of worship – just not to say astounding ways of worship. But while many have easily attracted membership, others simply flopped and for nothing else but their rather intricate styles on how to be assimilated into their religion. Among others, the Hindu, the Seventh day Adventists. Today, we get to profile the different ways with which religions in Uganda initiate new followers into their respective religious domains.
According to Stephen Lule Ssaalongo, the resident catechist at Our Lady Consolata, Bweyogerere Parish, the Catholic Church warmly welcomes new members and people who are becoming Catholic fall into three categories: infants and young children who are born or adopted into Catholic families usually are baptized as infants and thus Christened and Confirmed later on.
Meanwhile people who have had little or no affiliation with or religious training in the Christian faith and people who have been active members in other Christian denominations go through a process of formation in the Catholic Christian faith and way of life called Christian Initiation, or catechumenate. Christian Initiation is a gradual process; If the person decides to pursue the process of becoming Catholic, he or she enters the catechumenate;
Though the various rites of the catechumenate, the Church marks a person’s journey to full membership. The climax of the catechumenate process is the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharistic usually at the Easter Vigil, followed by a period for reflection on the sacraments. From the time an unbaptized person becomes a catechumen until that person celebrates the sacraments of Initiation, usually takes at least one year. This allows the catechumen to experience one full cycle of the Church’s rhythm of feasts and seasons.
Baptized adults who have never been formed in the Christian life also participate in the chatechumen. Even though the process is the same, the Catholic Church takes care to respect the fact that these people truly are baptized.
Period of Inquiry is a time of introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a time of reflection on one’s own life in the light of the values of God. It is an unstructured time of no fixed duration for questions and an opportunity of the beginnings of Christian faith to form.
Afterwards, there’s a Period of the Catechumenate, Election or Enrollment of Names, Period of Purification and Enlightenment and the
Sacraments of Initiation where one become full members of the Body of Christ, the Church, through the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, usually at the Easter Vigil. They are known as neophytes, “new sprouts.”
However, during the Period of Mystagogy, is one year of helping the neophytes become incorporated into the full life of the Christian community.
In the Anglican Church, although baptism passes one as an acceptable member of the church, In Protestant denominations, Confirmation is seen as a rite of passage or initiation to full Christian discipleship. According to Anglican Rev. Edward Muyomba of St. Luke Church, Mukono Diocese, it is a symbolic act allowing the baptized person to make a mature statement of faith. Confirmation is not regarded as a sacrament or a means of conferring divine grace. The sacrament of confirmation is conferred through the laying of hands. Confirmation can be held at any age.
Orthodox Churches refer to confirmation as Chrismation. They confer Chrismation at the same time as baptism.
Although the Roman Catholics and members of the Orthodox Churches do not confirm converts from the Orthodox Churches, by contrast, when Roman Catholics and Protestants convert to Orthodoxy, they are usually received into the Church by Chrismation but without baptism.
However, some bishops require converts to be admitted through baptism. Protestants, in particular, may have to be baptized again.
Born-again Christians & Seventh Day Adventists
Presiding Apostle of the Born Again Faith, Dr. Sserwadda has continually boasted of being leader to a faith that is expansionist in nature. As such, he maintains that as is the scripture in the book of Romans, one believes with the heart and confesses with their mouth to become part of God’s family. After that, the new convert is not only baptized with the Holy Spirit but also immersed in a pool of water to complete the full course of initiation and can hence sit under Church discipleship.
Paradoxically, although the Born again bunch always seems to be at parallels with the Adventists as far as dogma is concerned, on inititiation they seem to eat on the same plate, except Adventists speed is very lingering and painstaking.
According to Sheik Hamudani Lwasa, the Principal of Al Hidaaya Vocational Training Institute, Mukono, “Children learn about Islam from birth. When a baby is born, the first thing it will hear is the Shahadah [the declaration of faith].” he continues that Muslim baby boys are then circumcised. This is normally done at the same time as the head shaving ceremony, whereby the infant’s hair is shaved off on the seventh day of their lives. The weight of the hair will be determined and the hair weight in gold will be given to the poor. An offering follows where one sheep is given if it is a girl and two if it is a boy. The meat is cooked and is shared with the whole family and visitors.
In the same way, an adult person has to say a sentence called the Testimony of Faith [Shahada], which is pronounced as: I testify “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.”
These Arabic words mean, “There is no true god but God [Allah], and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God.” Once a person says the Testimony of Faith [Shahada] with conviction and understanding its meaning, then he/she has become a Muslim. For a male, circumcision follows shortly.
Once the child enters the world, Jatakarma is performed to welcome the child into the family, by putting some honey in the child’s mouth and whispering the name of God in the child’s ear.
Other rituals include a naming ceremony (Namakarna), the Nishkarmana (the child’s first trip out) and the Annaprasana, (the child’s first taste of solid food).
The ear-piercing ceremony (Karnavedha) and first haircut (Mundan) ceremonies are also considered highly significant. These sacraments are performed on both the sexes. Head shaving is connected to the removal of impurities.
When the child reaches school-going age, the Upanayana (sacred thread) ceremony is performed. The three strands of the sacred thread represent the three vows (to respect the knowledge, the parents and the society) taken before the start of formal education.