The leader of the Adventist Church in Uganda has made a personal appeal to the East African country’s president to expand religious freedoms to allow Adventists to avoid requirements to work and study on Sabbath.
John Kakembo, president of the Uganda Union Mission, spoke to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni at an event that kicked off a fundraising drive for a new multipurpose church complex in Kampala, the capital of the central African country.
Kakembo asked the president to support legislation that would make accommodation for students and employees who request Sabbath off for religious observance.
Museveni did not immediately reply to the request publicly, but it was not the first time that he has been pressed about the Sabbath. Jan Paulsen, during his time as president of the Adventist world church from 1999 to 2010, raised the issue with Museveni while a local court was considering an appeal by Adventist students against taking university exams on Sabbath. The court did not back the students.
Sabbath observance can be a challenge to many of the 260,000 Adventists who live in Uganda, a country of 36.8 million.
“I have lost six jobs because of the Sabbath. Many employers want us to work on Sabbath,” church member John Nyagah Gakunya said during a discussion about Sabbath observance on Adventist World’s Facebook page a few weeks ago.
But Gakunya said he was not discouraged. “I remain faithful to God, and I would say it’s not a loss to serve God,” he said. “Honor God, and He will honor you.”
Ugandan Information Minister Rose Namayanja, an Adventist church member, noted at the fundraising event with the president on Nov. 22 that religious freedom has improved in the country since the days when previous presidential administrations banned many faiths.
“Through the constitution, you granted us freedom of worship and elevated our rights,” she told Museveni, who has served as president since 1986.
Museveni, for his part, gave a speech in which he praised Adventists as honest and urged them to serve Uganda.
“Influence people by your example because you shall be known by your actions,” he said in a speech. “Let your light shine for others to see so they can praise to your Father in heaven.”
The president was invited by the church’s Uganda Union Mission to participate in the launch of the fundraising drive for the church complex near the union’s office. The nine-story complex will with include conference rooms, guestrooms, offices, a bookstore, church halls and other facilities.
Kakembo, the local Adventist leader, thanked the president for attending the event and for appointing four Adventists as Cabinet ministers. All four attended the event.
With reporting by ANN and Samuel Mwebaza, communication director for the Uganda Union Mission.