The Gift of Peace and the Spread of Orthodoxy in Northern Uganda
by Emily Robertson (6/26/2014)
In northern Uganda, an area that has been decimated by war and is finally becoming more secure, “every day, everywhere you go, people are waiting to become Orthodox”, says Fr. Emmanuel Oruk. So many people want Orthodoxy in northern districts like Lira, Oyam, and Apad that it is difficult to minister effectively to all of them. Fr. Emmanuel, who recently visited the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in St. Augustine, FL., is one priest in the region who has been very instrumental in spreading the faith. After finishing his studies in Athens in 1994, he returned home just as OCMC’s first Mission Team to Uganda arrived to help build a church.
After the catechetical center in Uganda was established in 1995, Fr. Emmanuel was ordained in 1996. In the years that followed there was often political turmoil and war in the north of the country. Fr. Emmanuel notes that these obstacles have made ministry difficult. Over the last 4-5 years, though, there has been renewed hope that the climate will become more stable. The catechetical center has done its part to bring things back together and the Church has been able to provide relief for many in the area.
In Lira, where Fr. Emmanuel serves, a deanery was established through which missions and outreach are coordinated. There are not enough priests in the area, however, leaving many communities without one. Because of this, at least once a year, Fr. Emmanuel and his fellow priests try to travel and reach out to do baptisms where priests are scarce. Many communities still have to gather for services in homes or under trees. Four students from the Lira deanery are about to complete seminary training, with the intention to be ordained and serve the people.
In Oyam, there is a school serving primary through 6th grade, and they are hoping to add 7th grade soon. Some students there are orphans who come into the care of the Church. The school is still under construction, and they are working on developing a dormitory. There is a well being drilled at the school to provide water for the nearby area. It is hoped that this school will develop successfully and be a model to inspire others of all that can be done by local communities.
In Apad, a church is being built with funds from Greece, and sewing machines have been donated for women there. There is so much progress, so much for the people to look forward to, and many new opportunities arising as the Orthodox Faith spreads throughout the region.
There is a deep appreciation for the help that the OCMC offers the people of northern Uganda – working together, sharing together, and helping them to move forward. However, there is also a drive to become more self-reliant in whatever small ways they can. As Fr. Emmanuel says, “Yes, we are poor, but we have to lift ourselves up through a life of sacrifice. We need to have the spirit of sacrifice.” Every community is now sharing something small with the local catechists- soap, or a bag of sugar- out of inspiration to help themselves grow and move forward together. By working with the OCMC, they are learning new ways to do things and what contributes to success, and those things can be shared throughout the country.