KAMPALA, Uganda — The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the patience of some religious leaders across Africa who worry they will lose followers, and funding, as restrictions on gatherings continue. Some evangelical Christian leaders in Uganda have launched a campaign with the now-universal phrase of protest: “I can’t breathe.”
Their members vow to occasionally put on the burlap costumes they say resemble the sackcloth worn by biblical prophets.
“Uganda is a God-fearing nation but, unfortunately, due to the lockdown, the citizens of our great country cannot gather to seek God’s intervention,” Betty Ochan, leader of the opposition in Uganda’s national assembly, recently wrote in the local Daily Monitor newspaper. “The devil is taking dominance. If people do not worship God together, they are spiritually derailed.”
From Nigeria to Zimbabwe, people are speaking out — or sneaking out to worship — as they argue that limits on religion could lead to a crisis of faith.
“I am appalled that some people have the audacity to tell us how many hours we can spend in church,” said Chris Oyakhilome, president of the Lagos-based megachurch known as Christ Embassy. “How dare you. What in the world do you think you are?”
Church services in Nigeria resumed last month but are limited to an hour, a severe test for some in a country where worship can spill from a Sunday morning into the afternoon.