Back in the days religious leaders were known for attending funerals, Church & Mosque Services and attending thanks giving ceremonies. Today in addition to the above, Religious leaders are continuously advocating for a number of factors hindering human progress and community development.The narration has changed when religious leaders started including themselves in capacity building, Advocating for African norms and values, Raising there voices in bringing back sanity in our communities and participating directly in mobilizing for politicians in Churches and Mosques.Religious leaders are representative of religious organizations or sole corporations, who are commissioned, ordained, endorsed or otherwise accepted as a religious authority by the individual’s religious faith. They are often the most respected figures in their communities and play a powerful role in shaping attitudes, opinions and behaviors because their members trust them.Especially at the family and community level, religious leaders have power to raise awareness and influence attitudes, behaviors and practices. They can shape social values in line with faith – based teachings. At these levels, religious leaders can become aware of optimal breastfeeding practices and motivate their congregations to promote mother’s right to breastfeed, motivate and educate followers to adopt other healthy behaviors and facilitating communication within families to create a more supportive environment.For some good case studies, Over the years the Acholi religious leaders peace initiative (ARLPI) moved from focusing on providing practical support and shelter to parishioners towards being proactive in “bearing witness” to the conflict and engaging directly in peace building.The same Religious leaders from ARLPI also participated in the peace talks between the LRA and the government in 1993 – 1994. Following their collapse, two massacres in kitgum in 1995 motivated in the newly created Anglican Diocese of Kitgum led by Bishop Macleod Baker Ochola who had participated in the failed negotiations and the Catholic Comboni father to begin an ecumenical initiative to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.Religious leaders are organized in one supreme body called the inter religious council of Uganda (IRCU), which is constituted by Seven (7) dominions, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), the Church of the Province of Uganda (Church of Uganda – COU), the Uganda Orthodox Church (UOC), the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), the Seventh – Day Adventist Uganda Union (SDAUU), the Born Again Faith in Uganda (BAF) and the National Alliance of Pentecostal and evangelical churches in Uganda (NAPECU).The Roman Catholic are represented by 39.3% on the country’s population, Anglican 32%, Pentecostal 11.1% and 13.7% are Muslims.Despite the Government’s efforts to eradicate poverty through generation of different models like Parish development models (PDM), EMYOOGA, UWEP, YLP and many other programs which aims at poverty eradication and improving agribusiness in our community, it has been hesitant in engaging religious leaders from all the different levels of governance.These poverty eradication programs come with different guidelines with which include those that should benefit from such programs and the agreed Interest percentage which seem not fit according to some religion teachings against interests.Special interest groups were allocated with special poverty eradication programs like the Youth Livelihood Program, UWEP for women, and again government went ahead in providing the same groups with different percentages in other programs like PDM and EMYOOGA, which shows that religious leaders are left out yet they play an important role in our societies. In conclusion, Religious leaders should be included in all government programs, allocation of special poverty eradication.
The author of this article is Mr. Habib Mustafa, the National Chairman of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) Youth Council, Eduationist, Patriotic and a youth leader in Luweero district.