Kitara Religious and Cultural Center

The part of Uganda called Kitara has a long history of religious and cultural backgrounds. This background has a huge influence on the area’s development. Most times this background presents opportunities for cooperation as well as opportunities for conflict. The aim of Kitara Religious and Cultural Center is therefore to foster peace and co-existence among a people of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Establishment of a Religious and Cultural Center is not only a symbol for peace and co-existence in the region but also a centre for Economic Development.

Kitara area lies across the Equator right in the heart of East Africa, geographically known as Western Uganda. The history of Kitara dates as far back as 1889 when Uganda was still a British protectorate and part of this region was nicknamed ‘the Switzerland of Africa’ because of the hilly nature and its unique vegetation and weather.

With introduction of Christianity in Africa, there appeared a common perception in missionary circles that Africa had no prior religion, that there was no knowledge of God in Africa and hence, Africa was a ‘dark’ continent. This view and the actions flowing from it were regarded by Africans as using ‘the gospel to declare the superiority of Western value systems and using this claim to justify European conquest and exploitation of Africa. Missionaries were not only perceived as turning Africans away from their culture, but were also understood to be undermining African culture by being arrogant, in the sense that they compared African culture to their so-called superior culture. Consequently, missionaries were regarded as part, or agents, of the colonizing of Africa.

The indigenous religious and Cultural personalities made a counter-movement which was all about the resistance against domination; Western Christianity failed to meet the African aspirations. It created a serious vacuum in the lives of Africans. Western Christianity had taken from Africans a religion which was functional and useful in their lives. Until today there are differing views on religion and culture in many parts of Africa including the Kitara region where we live.

This perspective saw Christianity and culture as two opposing forces of influence. The church stood on one side of the line, and culture on the other. The defenders of the Western Christianity up to today know that there is a great battle being waged (Ephesians 6), a battle that plays out both invisibly in the heavenly realm, and visibly in the cultural realm.”

This mind-set tends toward legalism and tries to restrict Christians’ interactions with society and culture. Here is recognition that the Christian life involves war against culture, and wrongly tries to wage that war by escaping from the social world. In face of Christianity, people who believe in and exalt their cultures are regarded as sinners.

This mind-set still falls short of understanding of the African life; it’s too easy to see ourselves fighting against people instead of sin. African social and cultural contexts are largely taken to be of unbelievers.

At Kitara Cultural and Religious Center we believe that Cultural shifts that happen independently of the church aren’t always bad, God has enabled all people, Christian or not, to make good and valuable contributions in the cultural realm. We believe that the Christians resisting these cultural shifts are in the wrong. Not all culture isn’t always right, and the church can’t mirror every move culture makes. We also believe that without God, culture raises up idols in his place celebrities, politicians, sex, wealth and power.

The questions we are trying to answer here include; can the church embrace culture without also embracing its idols? Can one belong to the African culture and still practice Christian religion?

Christians who believe that it is possible view their cultural context in very high esteem perhaps disagreeing with aspects of it here and there, but for the most part finding it to be an ally rather than a threat to Christianity. Generally, this view sees advances in culture as positive changes the church should embrace.

We rightly recognize that God ordered the world in such a way that humans would make culture, and we rightly recognize that culture exhibits real aspects of truth, goodness, and beauty.

When Christians adopt a ‘Christianity of culture’ mind-set, they affirm Christianity’s ability to be a prophetic voice and usually end up putting a mark on doctrines and moral beliefs that run in line with the cultural consensus.

We Promote Christianity in and for culture: It’s no secret that at Kitara Cultural and Religious Center we believe that the best way to view the relationship between church and culture is ‘‘Christianity in and for Culture. We believe this is the better mind-set, the one that views human beings as representatives of Christ who live their lives in the midst of and for the good of their cultural context, and whose cultural lives are characterized by obedience and witness.We believe that as Christians, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we represent another world, while we live in the midst of this one. 

We believe that God created a structure that allows culture to exist, shift, and progress. As humans, we formulate and shape that culture within God’s structure. We recognize that every cultural context is structurally good, but sometimes directionally corrupt. For this reason, we must live firmly in the midst of our cultural contexts (structurally), all the way while seeking to steer our cultural realities toward Christ rather than toward idols (directionally).

As ambassadors of Christ, we are fully immersed in the culture, but everything about us points back to the one we serve. This doesn’t mean we agree with everything culture does, but we learn to understand it and speak its language, identify its true desires, all with the intention of showing how Christ is the only one who can correctly fulfil those well-meaning cultural and social desires.

We believe that every aspect of human life and culture is ripe for Christian witness. Every dimension of culture, whether it is art, science, or politics, is an arena in which we can speak about Christ with our lips and reflect him with our lives. We thank God for the existence of culture and recognize whatever is good in it, while at the same time seeking to redirect whatever is not good toward Christ and the wellbeing of people.

Kitara Cultural and Religious Center is inspired by the key roles culture and religion play in the wellbeing of people and the role it plays in the development of nations all together. “Culture and religion are strong pillars in people’s lives. Culture and religion influence our values, hopes and world view.”

We envision a vibrant religious and culture sector that is spiritual, professional, creative and viable and contributes to the spiritual, social and economic development of the people in Kitara region. We are therefore dedicated to contribute toward making Kitara region a significant hub for religious and cultural developments in Uganda and led by our values of stewardship, respect, shared leadership, transparency, accountability, learning, and collaboration.

For starters, the word “religion” is problematic for many Africans, because it suggests that religion is separate from the other aspects of one’s culture, society, or environment. But for many Africans, religion can never be separated from all these. It is a way of life, and it can never be separated from the public sphere. Religion informs everything in traditional African society, including political, art, marriage, health, diet, dress, economics, and death.

Our cultural heritage has a clear significance in terms of cultural identity, and the religious heritage in its various manifestations. At Kitara Cultural and Religious Centre, we envision both religious and cultural aspects of life which are carried out interchangeably.

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