Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, who experienced first-hand the military dictatorship of Idi Amin, has called upon religious and political leaders – not least current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni – to end to the “suffering and misery” of those impacted by the bloody conflict in Northern Uganda.
The appeal came in Dr Sentamu's sermon at Westminster Abbey, London, during a service to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the assassination (by Amin) of the former Archbishop of Uganda, Janani Luwum, who he knew well.
Dr Sentamu described Luwum as “an archbishop who confronted tribalism, religion and despotism in Uganda,” adding: “Today he would be busy confronting the demons of our time: Idolatry (the worship of God falsely conceived), militarism, materialism and racism.”
Calling for a “redoubling of effort” from Uganda and the world community to bring an end to child slavery and the use of child soldiers, the Archbishop of York said that Janani Luwum’s “heart would be rendered open by the suffering of the Acholi and the Langi in Northern Uganda; suffering that has gone on unabated from the time of Idi Amin to the present.”
He declared: “To President Yoweri Museveni, Archbishop Henry Orombi in partnership with the world community, he would urge a redoubling of effort to put an end to the suffering and misery… All of us Ugandans must see the problem of Northern Uganda as a sore wound on our conscience. We are all implicated.”
“As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, ‘We must continue to remind ourselves that in a free society, all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible’,” continued Dr Sentamu.
The Archbishop of York has recently caused controversy by suggesting that some of the anti-terrorism measures taken or contemplated by the British government are reminiscent of police state tactics.
While many have described the comparison as exaggerated or inappropriate, human rights campaigners share the Archbishop’s concern about the need to challenge long-term detention without trial, attenuation or removal of jury procedures, and British accommodation to US abrogation of international law.
The UK government reacted strongly against the analogy of a police state, emphasizing that the terror threat from violent extremists is real and has to be handled by appropriate security measures.
Those close to Dr Sentamu say that the way he has expressed himself on this issue owes a good deal to his own direct experience of a dictatorial regime in Uganda.