Christmas is coming! I wonder what that means for you. Of course, Christmas means lots of feasting. It also means higher prices for sodas, for food, and for transport. It can often mean an increase in crime, especially theft.
The heart of the message of Christmas, however, is found in the words of the Bible, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4.4-5)
Jesus was the Son of God. He was born from the Virgin Mary and raised by Joseph. Jesus was both fully God and fully human. He left the glory of heaven, took on human flesh, and immersed himself in the real challenges of this world. He did all of this so that he could redeem us and take us with him back to heaven.
Jesus learned his faith from Mary and Joseph so well that by the age of 12 he was able to engage his religious leaders. He learned carpentry as a trade from Joseph. Even though Jesus was the Son of God, he was born into a family and grew up in a family. His family was even with him when he died.
In this Christmas season, I want us as a country to think about Jesus and his family. At our Provincial Assembly in August, we declared 2017 to be the Year of the Family, and I want to launch it today. We are blessed that the President made the same declaration for the entire country.
The family is the fabric of society and the base for a stable community and nation. It is lamentable that the families in our country are facing deliberate attack by different evil forces both from within and outside. This makes our children very vulnerable. They are growing in a very violent environment and many have become victims of circumstances. In the process they are denied their rights.
We are greatly concerned about domestic violence, child sacrifice, drunkenness, drug abuse, sodomy and homosexuality, joblessness, poverty, permissiveness, peer pressure and other evils which target the family directly. We must focus our attention on protecting and guiding our families in our communities and entire country.
Secondly, the Family is the place where new life begins. Children are born within families. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is a God who values LIFE. We are, therefore, opposed to abortion and are opposed to the plans of the Ministry of Health to draft a bill to legalize abortion. Abortion which is done by one’s choice is against God’s will and the Bible considers it to be murder. Any life has the right to continue and no one has the mandate to destroy it.
There is plenty of evidence that demonstrates that legalizing abortion is not a significant factor in reducing maternal mortality, despite the arguments we may often hear. The medical infrastructure required for safe abortions is the same medical infrastructure required for safe childbirth. So, if abortion is legalized before safe childbirth is available to every mother in Uganda, the only thing legalizing abortion will do is create more opportunities for women to die in poorly funded and poorly staffed medical facilities in this country. This would be very tragic.
The God of the Bible is about life, not death. The legalization of abortion is only appropriate if the goal is to prevent childbirth. If the goal is to protect the mother and baby throughout pregnancy and childbirth then legalizing abortion is not the solution. Abortion is anti-family, and in the Year 2017, we are focused on building up and supporting the family.
Likewise, we are opposed to educational programmes in schools that promote homosexuality as normal, that introduce children as young as 10 years old contraception and methods of family planning without the consent of their parents or guardians. We call for the removal of this material and for the government to ensure that all sexuality education materials promote the Biblical values of abstinence before marriage, and faithfulness in lifelong marriage between one man and one woman. It is our God given responsibility to defend our children and guide our legislators not to introduce irrelevant education to our children.
I also want to lament the number of people who died recently in the conflict in the Rwenzori region. I get very sad when I think about all the families affected by the senseless killing.
· Children who will grow up without their fathers;
· Women who have been widowed and abandoned to poverty;
· The big number of orphans that were created in a short period of time.
War and fighting are not good for families.
I urge all of us, in the strongest possible terms, to learn how to resolve conflict peacefully, without resorting to violence. I urge us to seek justice without seeking revenge.
I pray that this generation will be the one to break the cycle of revenge and oppression and be the generation that stands up for God, our families, and our country.
Finally, as I have been talking about families today, I want to thank all those who have stood with Mama Beatrice and me and our entire family this week as we buried our son Peter after his untimely death at such a young age. Your outpouring of love and support has meant so much to us and we ask for your continued prayers. We have not been able to personally respond to every message, but we thank you for them. Thank you for the gifts that have shown your heart.
I send warm Christmas greetings to President Yoweri Museveni, Maama Janet and their entire family and all our government leaders. All the Bishops and their wives, the Clergy, Lay Readers and Christians of the Church of Uganda. I also send my sincere greetings, along with prayers for a blessed Christmas for our Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Pentecostal brethren, and all those who have looked in hope for the coming of the One who was “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!
The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA