Passion For Humanity

what's new

Memories of the early years of Kigezi Diocese

Edited by Admin
Memories of the early years of Kigezi Diocese

(An abridged version of this article was published in the Consecration Magazine 2022 of the Diocese of Kigezi)


I was born at Kabale Hospital to a Roman Catholic mother and a Native Anglican Church father. My basic education at the Anglican Church founded schools - Kihanga Boys Primary School, Kigezi High School Primary (Lower), Kigezi High School (Junior), and King’s College, Budo – introduced me to the Word of God and to the traditions and rituals of the Anglican Christian Communion. 


I was baptized into the Anglican Church by Reverend Andereya Gihanga at Kihanga when I was about eight years old, and I was confirmed an Anglican by Bishop Dunstan Nsubuga of Namirembe when I was about fourteen years old. The Reverend Hugh Silvester, my high school chaplain, and Mr. Daniel Kyanda, my headmaster in my final year of high school, worked hard to turn me into a Christian. However, it was on January 26, 1975, in my third year at Makerere University, that I became a Christian, born again because I chose to surrender my life to Christ, not merely to carry a label conferred on me through the religious rituals of the Church in which I was raised.


My father, who became a born-again Christian in 1958, shared the Gospel with us from our early years, and turned our homes into almost daily fellowship venues. Numerous Christian men and women visited our homes, with many staying overnight, bringing great joy as they shared testimonies, sang revival hymns with passion, and led long prayers that frequently lulled us to sleep. Among these wonderful Christians whom I remember with great fondness were Abraham Zaaribugire, Wilson Komunda, Festo Kivengere, James Katarikaawe, Samwiri Kaabushooko, Julaina Mufuko, Zehuriya Bampabura nyina Katwesigye, Mary Kifende, Ephraim Kaburahoona, Ephraim Kangire, Daudi Ikuratiire, Charles Kakira, Benyamini Biteete, Semu Ndimbirwe, Samwiri Katuguugu, and Zabuloni Kabaza who, by God’s grace, is still with us. 


However, when I think of Kigezi Diocese, three names stand out - Reverend Abraham Zaaribugire, Reverend Wilson Komunda, and Bishop Festo Kivengere. These gentlemen exemplified the nature, calibre and Christ-centred lives and ministry upon which the New Testament Church was founded. Whenever they stood in the pulpit or by the roadside to share the Word of God, I listened with rapt attention, their messages resonated with me, and I wanted to hear more from them. Though all three were highly gifted orators, the power and impact of their message was founded on their characters, not their stage performance.


 They were, first and foremost, born-again Christians. Theirs was not ritualistic religionism. Their pastoral work was not based on possession of academic certificates. It was based on a spirit-filled calling and a passion for evangelism. Their sermons resonated with the congregations because they enjoyed unsolicited credibility. Their lives reflected Christ alive and did not contradict their messages from the pulpits. 


So, they were above reproach, meaning that there was nothing in their private or public conduct for which anyone could bring forth a valid accusation. They were monogamous men, whose devotion to their wives was never stained by inappropriate behaviour. They were respectable in every way, without demanding to be called honourable, venerable, or other labels that many insist on these days. 


They were not drunkards. They were always gentle. They did not publicly engage in partisan politics, especially during the factional fights in the 1960s between Abanyama and Ababoga that ensnared many clergymen in that awfully adversarial episode. Instead, they were the healers in a fractured community where the Anglican Church had become the battleground for secular politics.  To my knowledge, they did not give church platforms to secular politicians to market their politics and candidacies. 


These men had a reputation for sober-minded thought and decision-making. Humility was part of their strength. They exalted the people, putting us ahead of themselves, never encouraging or allowing the congregations to treat them like royalty. It was evident that they understood what it meant to care for the Church of God that He had obtained with His own blood. 


My parents, who knew them very well and interacted with them as equals, held Zaaribugire, Komunda and Kivengere in very high esteem. They admired them as people who had great self-control. My interactions with them as an adult affirmed my parents’ opinions. I was especially impressed by their easy accessibility, and their humility. They did not consider themselves to be “big men.” Quite the opposite.


Even at the peak of his international fame as an evangelist, Festo Kivengere was perfectly happy to be amid his congregations, most of whose members were engaged in the daily struggle for economic survival. When he fled into exile following the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum in 1977, Kivengere immediately launched a program to help fellow refugees. I was a beneficiary of his efforts during my own refuge in Nairobi, Kenya. Kivengere oversaw the finances of that program with a level of honesty and accountability that set the standard for husbandry of non-governmental organizations. 


His clean record of financial accountability applied to his tenure as Bishop of Kigyezi. His personal lifestyle reflected a modesty that was commensurate with his calling and his remuneration. His time was devoted to evangelical and church leadership work, in the knowledge that the Lord would provide for his needs. And the Lord did indeed provide, even during the hard times of his exile. 


I remember his car in which he travelled the length and breadth of his diocese, which covered the entire Kigyezi District that has now been subdivided into four dioceses. That was many years before the four-wheel sports-utility-vehicles were availed to the non-military world. One imagines his small car coughing its way up the treacherous hills of Rubanda, slowly inching its way to Gisoro and other parishes in Bufumbira. How did he manage to navigate the rugged roads through Rutenga, Nyakishenyi and Kinkizi? Yet he did, always confident in the knowledge that the Lord was in control. He preached the Gospel. People gave their lives to Christ. Under Kivengere’s oversight, Kigyezi, the epicentre of the Great Revival in Uganda, continued its path of transformed hearts and surrender to the Cross.


When he died prematurely in May 1988, Kivengere did not leave much in material wealth. The modesty of his residences in Kabaare and Kampala are testimonies that continue to remind us of the man whose entire being was focused on Christ and bringing others to the Cross.


Likewise, Zaaribugire and Komunda lived very modest lives. Their houses were the normal church pastors’ residences. For most of their lives as pastors, they walked, rode bicycles, or took buses to do their work and attend fellowship meetings. If they owned cars, it was late in their service, long after I had left Uganda. By all accounts, they joyfully did their work for minimal worldly compensation. They understood their calling and the certainty of the priceless reward that awaited them in Heaven. 


Money was not a central part of their message. The words rich or businessman were never applied to them. They had fully internalised the wonderful passage in 1 Timothy 6: 6-10, in which Paul wrote: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”


Above all, these men did not hesitate to speak truth to power. Kivengere narrowly escaped death or imprisonment because he, along with fellow bishops, had spoken the truth about the human rights abuses, disappearances and deaths that had become commonplace during the rule of Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada. They were not man pleasers. They obeyed God even when it caused discomfort to the secular rulers and other people. 


The consecration of our new bishop invites us to examine ourselves as individuals and as a collective body of believers in our risen and living Lord and Saviour. Are we living lives that reflect that of Him that we profess to be our Lord? Is the Church a body composed of people who are truly equal before the Lord, free from worldly social, economic, and political stratification? Is it how much money one gives to the Church that counts or how much commitment to the Lord’s ministry each member contributes to the collective fellowship that should be encouraged and nurtured?  


I pray for a renewed Anglican Church in Kigyezi and Uganda, where titles are left outside the sanctuary. There should be no excellencies, honourables, doctors, generals, professors, ambassadors and all those artificial titles that are irrelevant at the foot of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Inside the sanctuary and within the entire body of Christ, we should recognise, honour, and serve only two groups of people – Christians and non-Christians seeking the Lord’s mercy and grace.  


I pray for the continued growth of the Church in Kigezi Diocese and all over Uganda and beyond. When I have been privileged to attend Sunday worship at archdeaconries in Kigyezi, I have been struck by the joy that greets announcements of money that was collected the previous Sunday or the previous month. It is my prayer that those announcements of money be preceded by, and even replaced by announcements of how many people have been added to the number of born-again Christians. 


I pray that the time allotted to secular politicians and others to engage the congregations in partisan politics be handed over to teachers of the Word, with systematic teaching through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, thus deepening the congregations’ knowledge of the Scriptures, which is the foundation of our faith. 


May it be said of us by future generations that, a century after the Gospel was first preached in our highlands, Kigezi Diocese was the epicentre of another spiritual revival that brought millions of people in East Africa to the foot of the Cross where they accepted the gift of salvation by Jesus Christ. May it be written that it was in Kigyezi that Christianity replaced religion, and that the changed hearts of the people, with Christ as our chief cornerstone, created a new society where genuine love, honesty, integrity, peace, and joy became our new and natural tradition.


© Muniini K. Mulera


Recent Posts

Popular Posts