A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Business of Religion

I am continually frustrated and saddened with religion being a business. Yesterday morning I noticed that a few of my students had the Bible on their desks with their other books. I work at a Muslim college and know that they have religious education but was still a little surprised to see students in their Muslim garb with the Bible. I asked a student later why she was carrying her Bible and she said it was for Bible study. I asked her if she was a Christian and she answered affirmatively. I then asked her if she was Muslim. She said no and at my puzzled expression explained that my Muslim college was the only one she could get into so she is Muslim while at school but otherwise is a Christian.

I had a conversation with Sister Kizito and Sister Stella about their families last weekend. I was asking why they became nuns and how their families felt about it. I asked if they came from Catholic families. This is when I found out that both of them have a brother who is a Muslim. I asked how they felt about it and they both told me they pray for their Muslim brothers but are not too concerned because the brothers only became Muslims for jobs. They needed to be Muslim in order to get a certain job and so they converted. They said it like choosing your religion was like choosing which pair of shoes to wear to work.

Even the other week a man approached me and ask if I would help him start an NGO. Here was how the conversation went:

Me: “What do you want to do?”
Man: “I want to start an NGO.”
Me: “That is great. What do you want to do?”
Man: “Start an NGO.”
Me, thinking he isn’t understanding me: “What kind of NGO do you want to start? What population of people do you want to be helping?”
Man: “I just want to start an NGO. I want a white truck.”

At this point I understand that it is me, who has been misunderstanding. The man believes, like most Ugandan’s, that NGO’s mean money and status. They drive around in Land Cruisers and big diesel white trucks with their NGO name across the door. They have a nice office in Kampala and enough money to feed their families. NGO’s, be them faith-based or not, are a business in Uganda.

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