By Dr. Josue Okoth
Corruption is a general word comprising of bribery, patronage, nepotism and cronyism, embezzlement, kickbacks, influence peddling, patronage, electoral fraud, unholy alliance and involvement in organized crime among others.
All these vices of corruption involve more than one participant. For instance bribery requires two participants: one to give the bribe and one to take it.
Either may initiate the corrupt offering, e.g. a customs official may demand bribes to let through allowed (or disallowed) goods, or a smuggler might offer bribes to gain passage.
In Uganda, we have a culture of corruption which has extended to every aspect of public life, making it extremely difficult for individuals to stay in business without resorting to bribes.
All types of corruption are sins by Christian perspective, and all involved do sin.
This paper discusses how in the first place corruption came to rule the community in this magnitude. How has this vice affected Christian identity? And how can it be faced-out? Concealing or denying this evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.
Corruption gets into community through its rulers. Generally people take rulers as role models. Just like children take their parents as role models.
A ruler should be an honest person of integrity; he/she should walk the talk and be a model for his/her subjects to live honestly and according to the truth.
The primary goal of a ruler is to establish justice in the country equally for all, based on truth. However, in our present age, rulers in general are shrouded, in injustices, corruption and lies.
The desire to dominate and to bring others under one’s feet is by far the common urge in a leader in our present day.
Christian identity is never egoistic, but always tries to be consistent, avoiding scandals, helping others and showing a good example. You have witnessed in Uganda scandal after scandal in both political and civil authorities.
The lesson we learn here is “Do as I say but not as I do”.
Uganda is 85% Christian but the integrity of Christianity has been compromised by corruption.
The British Ambassador to The Holy See reflected on Pope Francis’ Strong Words during his Naples visit when he said that, “corrupt society stinks and a Christian who lets corruption into his soul is no Christian. He was also clear that it is up to all of us to tackle it, from the lowest to the highest level, to ‘continue cleaning society’”.
In Uganda, because of what we see around us, many of us have become ‘lukewarm’ Christians. They live a ‘comfortable spirituality’. They think: ‘I do what I can, but I am at peace and do not want to be disturbed with strange things’. People who live well think nothing is missing: “I go to Church on Sundays, I pray a few times, I feel good, I am in God’s grace, I am rich and I do not need anything, I am fine’. Then there are those who look at their appearances: If everything look good, I have everything I need, I married in Church…I am ‘in grace of God’, I am alright”.
But at work the things they do are scandalous things, such as offering or receiving bribes. This state of mind is a state of sin, feeling spiritually comfortable is a state of sin. This is not being consistent, rather it leads to double life which distances us from God and destroys our Christian identity.
People have amassed wealth through deferent types of corruption. They use this money to hold lavish wedding partied. Salvation is not for sale. They wear Crosses and Rosaries on the necks and ear-ring crosses on their ears. Are they different from the Pharisees Jesus referred to? What must we do?
For leaders, they must take the example of the chief tax collector, and rich man, Zacchaeus (Lk 19). He was corrupt, working for foreigners, the Romans, he betrayed his own homelands. He was just like many leaders we know: corrupt.
These are those who, instead of serving the people, exploited the people to serve themselves. People did not like him. But he wanted to see Jesus out of curiosity; he had no shame of climbing a tree – he wanted to see Jesus and the Holy Spirit was working in him, his heart changes, he converts:
“Today Salvation has come to this house because this man,too, is a son of Abraham” (Lk 19:9)
For the rest of Ugandans, let us follow the example of Uganda Martyrs and Eleazer in chapter six of the book of Maccabees where Eleazer refused to eat pork meat and rejected the offer of his “worldly” friends to compromise his integrity, choosing instead to die a martyr’s death.
These give us support to uphold our Christian identity, without compromise and without leading a double life. That is why we pray with humility, saying “Lord, I am a sinner – but I ask You to uphold me so that I do not pretend to be a Christian while living like a pagan, worldly person.
Let Him give us courage to be an example to others.
Dr. Okoth is a concerned Christian