• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Charismatic Christian Outburst at Entebbe Airport

Extraordinary scenes at Entebbe Airport are described in the Kampala New Vision:

WHO is Pastor Pius Muwanguzi? That is the question that was eating away at everyone’s mind last Friday when the man of God entered the arrival lounge at Entebbe Airport.

…What was astounding was that all the people who rushed to meet Muwanguzi collapsed and fell by the way side as he moved.

The report says that Muwanguzi was returning from a visit to Mt Sinai (described as being in Israel), where he had replenished his spiritual powers:

The pastor, known for his out-of-this- world miracles, drove off his new Jeep Cherokee estimated at over sh180m [=$101,000]. Following him was his Toyota Land Cruiser with tinted windows.

On-line details about Muwanguzi and his Namulanda-based Holy Fire Ministries are scarce; several past reports in a local language (presumably Luganda) are gathered on this rather curious blog. However, from a recent report by Richard Kavuma in the Uganda Observer we can see that Muwanguzi – better known as William Muwanguzi rather than “Pius” – is a controversial figure:

According to Pastor Moses Male, Executive Director of Arising for Christ ministries, many churches are involved in selling prayers for all sorts of needs including getting cured of terminal illnesses like AIDS.

…Male named the pastors whose churches are involved in this trade as including William Muwanguzi of Holy Fire Ministries at Namulanda, Pastor Sembera of Cineplex Lunch Hour, and Augustine Yiga or Revival Christian Church at Kawaala.

A visit to these churches all but confirmed Male’s claims.

…Envelopes were also the order of the day at Pastor Muwanguzi’s Church, an iron-roof shelter nailed on eucalyptus poles, at Namulanda. One churchgoer told The Weekly Observer that if one wants to see the pastor privately, the fee was Shs 50,000 [=$29]. Those who are counselled as a group pay Shs 10,000 each.

…A female assistant who had been friendly became hostile, on learning that I was a journalist. She literally called the security guard to throw me out.

“You will get into trouble for nothing. Do you want to lose your camera and notes? We have many askaris [i.e. “soldiers”, presumably security guards in this context] behind there,” the woman said. “I am not threatening you. I know your agenda. If you think you are going to do research behind curtains, it won’t work.”

This discussion of Muwanguzi appears in the context of the prosperity gospel; as it happens, the BBC World Service has just broadcast a documentary on the phenomenon on the other side of the continent, in Ghana. It can be heard here. I blogged on some recent woes for the movement last month.