Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of the millenarian Christian denominations in Uganda, has opted not to reopen its worship centres, known as kingdom halls, even as the Ugandan economy reopens.
They argue that although the government has lifted all the restrictions on the movement of people and congregating as was the case over the last two years, the omicron COVID-19 Variant is still spreading intensely and this could increase the risk to believers if they are allowed to re-converge.
The global denomination of Jehovah’s Witnesses has 8.4 followers. Of these 9,011 are in Uganda as active Ministers who teach the bible across 163 congregations in different locations in the country. To many, they are known as the people who often come to homes to evangelize, based on their door-to-door ministry.
But they put a halt to all this when, like the rest of the economy, they officially closed in March 2020, as one of the measures to control the spread of COVID-19. In fact, the Kingdom Halls never reopened their doors even at times when Churches and Mosques resumed operations during the partial reopening in 2021.
This was the first time ever in the history of our church that the Jehovahs Witnesses stopped all kinds of public engagement, something they never did even during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, which infected about 500 million people worldwide and killed 50 million. Moses Oundo, the National Spokesperson of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Uganda told URN that they are undertaking extra precautionary measures not to expose their flock to the risks of contracting the killer contagion.
Oundo also explained that another incentive factor behind their preferred method of religious activities is the love for mankind and the value they attach to life as a precious gift from God that should be protected in the wake of such plague.
In an earlier publication, Robert Hendriks, the National Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States was quoted saying that the decision to keep the Kingdom Halls closed is to make sure that their meetings, ministries and conventions did not cause the spread of this deadly disease.
“It’s unfathomable for us as a people or organization to be held responsible for the deaths of others. It’s irreconcilable with our Christian values and what we preach. Spirituality is not about building or being with one another in person. It can still thrive when we’re connected virtually or otherwise. We’re still connecting emotionally, socially and spiritually. “He said.
Although it was feared that going virtual would hinder the traditional practices that represent the core of their convictions, among them public outreach, door to door evangelism and their large-scale conventions, some witnesses who spoke to URN said that they have adopted the new ways of worship without physical interaction.
Goretti Mirembe, a witness from Kajjansi Town Council Kingdom Hall says she has conveniently adopted to zoom meetings, video and phone teleconferencing. Another witness, Charles attached to Matugga Kingdom Hall says they are equally embracing vaccination against the virus disease contrary to the falsehoods that Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrines are opposed to the ongoing immunization programme.
The religious group has published reminders in hundreds of languages on its global website, encouraging adherence to safety guidelines. These include the importance of physical distancing and of following regulations on public gatherings, quarantining, hand washing, and the wearing of face coverings as well as other practical measures required or recommended by the authorities.