It may be hard for many of us to connect voting in an election with sin. Many of us know there are Ten Commandments, which God gave Moses on the way to Canaan, the Promised Land and nowhere in the holly book is voting mentioned as a sin.
But to the members of Abasimuki (the awakened ones), a religious sect in Uganda, East Africa, voting is a sin and if a member of this sect votes, he/she is ex-communicated.
The Abasimuki believe they are the holiest and do not want involve themselves in any earthly things.
They say voting is an earthly thing, which their members should not be involved in but only pray for the candidate of their choice.
Although the Electoral Commission expects more than 13milion voters for the 2011 presidential, parliamentary and local government polls, certainly some members who belong to this sect will not vote for fear of being ex-communicated. Some members of the sect say they are more than a million in numbers.
This religion of Abasisimuki is spreading at a fast rate in the country especially in pastoral areas of Nyabushozi, Sembabule, Nakasongola, Masindi, Luwero and Isingiro especially among the Banyankole living in those places.
According to the book, Okudda Obugya Okwo’mwoyo mu East Africa this sect was started in1960 by a member of the Anglican Church called Peter Kigozi who was traversing Uganda preaching the gospel and reportedly received vision from God about the dying of Christian values.
According to the book, he reportedly called 14 people who went to Entebbe Botanical Garden on 26th June 1960 to pray to God in order to get an answer to their problem.
These were Erika Mugwanya, Yona Mondo, Eseza Mondo, Doctor Leokoboamu Kafeero, Joyce Kafeero, Besweri Nyonyitono, Kezia Musajjaakawa, Kezekia Musajjaakawa, Kezekia Matovu, Peter Kigozi, John Kajubi, Faith Kajubi, Joshua Ntate, Yowasi Musoke, and Akisofera Ssekwanwagi.
According to the same book this sect started in Buganda and was opposed in Bunyoro because of the traditional difference between the two kingdoms. “In Bunyoro many never welcomed this sect and they started talking badly about it,” says the book.
Due to increased opposition to this sect in Bunyoro Kitara diocese, the Christians were divided and later the sect was banned by the central government.
In Bunyoro Reverend Swithin Nyarubona, Yowasi Musoke, Yosamu Tibeijuka and Mesusera Kaheeru who introduced the sect to Bunyoro were branded ‘rebellious church members who wanted to divide Church of Uganda’ by then the Bishop of Bunyoro Kitara Diocese Doctor Y.K Ruhindi. These four church members were despising their fellow Christians of being ‘spiritually asleep’ and Ruhindi reported the matter to the central government.
In a letter dated 30th May 1973 the District Commissioner Bunyoro district A.M Wangolo wrote to the above four persons “It has come to my attention that you are planning to hatch some divisions in the church of Uganda, Bunyoro Kitara diocese with your Kuzuukuka sect. Your activities are viewed with a serious concern by the government.
The dangers of division in the church of Uganda are only too fresh in our minds and government’s efforts and success smoothening relationship in the church should not be taken lightly and will not be allowed to be brushed aside,” says the letter copied to the Commander of Uganda Army and the Bishop of Bunyoro Kitara, Ruhindi
Then after Bishop Ruhindi received the above letter on 12th June 1973 he wrote to the same people and he told them that government had banned all religious sects that may cause religious divisions.
“Government only recognizes the three established religions which are Islam, Roman Catholic and Church of Uganda,” he said. Of course the story is different today, with the flourishing of religious freedom and Pentecostal churches.
After one month Nyarubona wrote to the Archbishop of Uganda Rev. E. Sabiti denying that they had 300 followers in Bunyoro as was alleged by Ruhindi.
He says Okusimuka (re-awakening) is not a sect but revival of the Christian values. “It is a revival of and a call to Christ’s followers to re-dedicate themselves afresh to him in a new totality of commitment,” Nyarubona said.
Over forty years now the sect has spread to Tooro, Acholi and to Ankole where it spreading very fast. In Kiruhura district the senior members of this sect include Simeon Kanjungu the father the late Brigadier Chefe Ali and Lazarus Rutetebya.
They are awake and you are asleep
The Abasimuki (the awake) call those who are not members of their church abagwejegyezi meaning “the asleep”.
Members of the sect who say they call themselves the awakened because when it comes to giving testimonies in the churches, they say every sin they have committed including for example saying names of persons they have committed adultery with.
And in places like Nyabushozi, Kazo and other places where this sect is gaining ground many marriages have broken because of exposing names of the adulterous people.
“If you don’t expose a sin and the person who has committed then that’s not Kusimuka,” says mzee James Bakyenga from Kashambya in Mubende, a senior member of this sect.
He says when one becomes Omusimuki, he or she abandons everything that can tempt you to do a sin. Bakyenga says voting can make one get angry if the supported candidate loses.
“For sure you will get angry and even you can fight,” he told Ultimate Media in an interview. He says getting angry or quarreling is a sin, which their sect avoids.
It is not only the openness in their testimonies or despairing voting that make the Abasisimuki unique from other Christians. They also don’t ask for bride price gifts when they giving away their daughters. They believe that it is God who creates people so Abasimuki can’t ‘sell’ a person who is created by God.
“Bride price inconveniences our children to look for cows as dowery and this could tempt them to commit sins,” Bakyenga says.
Why many young ladies can’t be Basisimuki
All Basimuki daughters are not supported to plait their hair, put on trousers and pierce their ears. The sect disregards all this because they see such acts as sins and attempts to attract men for sexual relations.
Their marriage beliefs are also difficult for many to abide by. If a daughter cohabits with a man, her parents cannot sleep in her house or receive anything like money, a drink or eat her food because they see cohabitation as a big sin and receiving anything from her means committing a sin.
During their giveaway ceremonies, immediately after the ceremony, the bride is supposed to leave her father’s house and sleeping there again means committing a sin.
So for them the Giveaway and wedding ceremonies are supposed to be held on the same day if both families are from this sect.
But if the groom’s family does not believe in this sect and holds the wedding ceremony the following day, the bride has to look for somewhere to sleep, where she can be picked to go for the church service the following day.
The writer went with two female colleagues for my interview with Bukenya, Rhonah Kamwine and Loyce Asasira who are from Nyabushozi and after greeting Bukenya, he immediately asked them “what do you say about getting saved?” then Kamwine replied “we shall get saved when time comes,” she said. He first preached and after the interview as were going I asked them how he realized they are not saved and they told me it is because he saw them with pierced ears and they were putting on trousers.
The Abasimuki have remained in the main stream Christian churches but they have their own internal principles, meetings and they have now built their own head church in Kirokole, Kawempe where they all meet on the first Sunday of every month.
By Risdel Kasasira, Ultimate Media