The Africa-wide phenomenon of born-again pastors fleecing their credulous congregations by promising them miracles in return for cash is now coming under close scrutiny in Uganda, New legislation to stop this practice is under consideration but opposition to it is fierce. Epajjar Ojulu reports from Kampala.
Whether one lives in the upscale Kampala city's Kololo or Muyenga neighbourhoods, or in the wretched conditions of the city's Kisenyi ghettos, one will always come face-to-face with numerous Pentecostal born-again churches.
According to theologians, these churches sprang from the East African Revival Movement of the 1920s, which began in Rwanda and was aimed at rekindling the Christian faith, threatened then by 'moral decadence, drunkenness and witchcraft'.
But today, most of these churches are largely owned by conmen riding on Jesus' name to amass wealth, fame and influence, says Pastor Elisha Oumo, formerly a scholar at Kenya's One Faith Bible College in the western town of Bungoma.
The number of born-again churches in Uganda has grown exponentially in the last decade. Today the country is estimated to have 40,000 born-again churches across the country. Of that number, only 136 have decent premises and are registered as non-governmental organisations and allowed to conduct marriage functions. The majority of the churches dotting the country are in makeshift structures built with papyrus, or mud and wattle with grass-thatched roofs.
However, in the upscale parts of cities and towns, churches for the affluent are housed in magnificent buildings where they compete for prime space with banks, insurance firms and top local and international business enterprises. Elsewhere in the poor neighbourhoods, the churches are in ramshackle premises.
Unlike establishments owned by the mainstream Anglican Church of Uganda, born-again churches are a property of individual pastors.
"Christianity is under assault from conmen," echoes Reverend Dr Andrew David Omona, a scholar at the Bishop Tucker School of Theology and Divinity, Uganda Christian University.
Omona argues that because of the deep social and economic troubles facing Ugandans, fake pastors have taken advantage, preaching appealing messages to vulnerable followers. These pastors claim they can bring wealth to the poor, cure the terminally ill, give children to the barren, provide jobs to the jobless and partners to those seeking marriage.
"They are told to 'sow seeds' commensurate with their...