Tragedy in Uganda: The Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a Post-Catholic Movement

In Massimo Introvigne’s article, “Tragedy in Uganda: The Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, a Post-Catholic Movement” (http://www.cesnur.org/testi/uganda_002.htm), Introvigne provides an overview of the Ugandan new religious movement called Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (RTCG). He states this movement hit popularity on March 17, 2000, when up to 300 individuals, including children, committed mass suicide. This contributed to a death toll of approximately 780 people in various locations. He mentions the RTCG is a fringe Catholic group, not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. The formation of this group started in 1987 when several Catholics appeared to have visions of Jesus and Virgin Mary in Uganda. Many key leaders such as Joseph Kibwetere and Kashaku claimed to have several apparition encounters throughout their lifetime. A group of twelve apostles was appointed and Kibwetere became the leader. These individuals continued to claim to have seen Jesus, Virgin Mary and Joseph in various visions. Through such visions, common Ugandan topics have been addressed such as AIDS and governmental corruption. There was not a lot of positive relations with the Ugandan Catholic Bishops, as one can imagine. Many bishops questioned the reliability of their apparitions and the properness of their ways of taking communion. The RTCG denied their group as a new religious movement, but Ugandan Catholic Bishops thought otherwise. In my opinion, I would consider the RTCG as a cult, as Hexham quotes James T. Richardson in his book “Understanding World Religions”, that a cult is essentially a group that has beliefs and/or practices that are counter to those of the dominant culture (Hexham, 6). These beliefs and practices are also in opposition of a subculture. In this case, the RTCG group’s practices and beliefs are somewhat contradictory to the Catholic beliefs and definitely counter the culture’s beliefs.

In 1998, the government revoked their license due to the group’s teachings, which breached public health regulations, Constitution, and possible mistreatment of children. Their main teaching was that the Ten Commandments was distorted and needed restoration to its original value. These individuals predicted several apocalyptic movements that failed. This failure resulted in some members doubting leaders and asking for a monetary refund. Because of this doubt, “traitors” were labelled and killed. There were three categories of deaths and victims. Firstly, there were those who knew about the suicide and regarded it as a rational way to escape the doomed world. Secondly, there were those who expected to go to Heaven, but did not know how. Lastly, there were the traitors who doubted the failed prophets. The remains of the leaders have not been confirmed, so there is question by some scholars whether they fled with the group’s finances.

In summary, this article sheds light to one of the several apocalyptic attempts made in history. It is unfortunate how many people can be drawn into these claims and prophecies. I wonder if the movement’s teachings have a greater influence on those living in a more desperate third world society.

JL

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