By BRIAN CLOWES
The battle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death in Africa is at its most intense in three nations: Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. It is not an exaggeration to say that the rest of sub-Saharan Africa follows what these three countries decide on many issues, including those involving life and family.
This means that a large number of population control groups are expending a lot of effort and money to ensure that these countries eventually embrace abortion and homosexuality.
In Uganda, the leading organization actively involved in anti-life work at the local level is Marie Stopes International. MSI is backed up by the usual alphabet soup of population control groups, from AVERT to USAID, along with at least nine agencies of the United Nations. Developed nations spent $330 million in Uganda for population control in 2013 alone, and $3.3 billion since 1990, or $85 per person, among the highest rates in the world.
In December, my wife Kathy and I spent two weeks with our host Fr. Jonathan Opio in Southern Uganda. After a day and a half in transit, we arrived at one in the morning in Entebbe and immediately began the all-night drive to Bukedea.
Driving in the Ugandan outback is surreal. It is just like a video game, except you only have one life to expend. Huge six-axle semis grind up the mildest hill at walking pace because they are poorly maintained/grossly overloaded/have detuned engines/have tired or drunk drivers. The second menace is the little “combies,” or vans, that randomly stop and drop off or pick up passengers.
During this trip we did a thousand miles of driving, mostly on country roads which would defeat a tank. Up to eight hours a day of pounding in Fr. Opio’s vehicle was enough to make our necks hurt. I was pretty sure that I was going to be about three inches shorter by the time this trip was finished.
In Bukedea Parish, we spoke to about 200 church workers and catechists about the population control agenda and the harmful effects of contraceptives. I displayed a nine-foot-long patient information leaflet describing 67 of the harmful effects of one type of birth control pill, and the women in the group passed it around, calling it “the snake.”
At the end of our two-hour session, one woman after another told their horrifying stories of abuse at the hands of the various population control groups. Kathy and I were astounded, but we were to hear many more such stories during our time in Uganda.
Those we spoke to reported that so-called Reproductive Health Units (RHUs), small entities that are responsible for delivering contraception to women, operate on quota and bonus systems. Population control groups pay them to simply give women whatever abortifacient method they happen to have on hand, including shots and implants. There is absolutely no informed consent (since the RHU workers have no medical training) and no attempt to get the women’s medical histories.
One woman had excruciating abdominal pain soon after being administered Norplant, and those who inserted it refused to remove it. Another had an IUD left in for 12 years and had suffered uncontrolled bleeding for most of that time. She lost so much weight that her friends began shunning her; they thought she had HIV. Another woman said that she had suffered so much that “I am a moving corpse.” One group of women had been locked in a room, and they were not allowed to leave until they “accepted” a method and had it shot or implanted or inserted into them.
One of the women called the family planners “family killers.” Just before we left, one injured woman pleaded, “We have no voice. Please tell people what is going on here. Be our voice.”
The pain etched in the women’s faces was heartbreaking to see.
The men were not spared either. Some agencies push circumcision as a method of cutting down on the risk of HIV/AIDS. Some of those we spoke to reported that before the men were circumcised, health workers asked them how many children they had. Several men we talked to who had three or more children were injected with an unknown substance before having the circumcisions, and now they have severe and permanent erectile dysfunction.
Kathy and I had no idea that there was so little regard for the rights of these women and men. Perhaps the population controllers believe that they operate so far out in the country that nobody will find out. Or perhaps they think that nobody cares about these poor people.
We then drove to Soroti, where Fr. Opio and I gave short talks after the Masses at the Immaculate Conception Church. Fr. Opio introduced us and gave a short reflection on HLI’s mission in the world, and I followed with a talk on God’s wisdom for our lives to about 1,200 people at the end of the first Mass and to another 3,000 at the Parish Day celebration.
I told the people that God wants us to be happy in both this life and the next, and so we should observe His natural law. I quoted Fr. Paul Marx’s favorite saying: “God always forgives, man sometimes forgives, but nature never forgives,” adding that science always supports the teachings of the Church.
During our travels, Fr. Opio, Kathy, and I had several opportunities to speak for two hours to assemblies of community leaders, including local politicians, police officers, civil servants, religious leaders, and catechists. We talked about the agenda of the population controllers, the problems with condoms, and the threat posed by militant homosexual organizations.
We woke a lot of people up. These leaders have been heavily propagandized about “rights,” which are claimed as cover to facilitate the anti-life agenda.
One evening, we had the opportunity to tour the site where Fr. Opio intends to build a small pro-life village, which will include a school, a children’s home named after St. Gianna Beretta Molla (for helping the hundreds of children and families he has saved from abortion), a pro-life medical clinic, and a crisis pregnancy center.
We learned that Fr. Opio and his team of counselors have saved at least 250 babies from abortion. In October 2012, he baptized 93 of the babies he saved at one Mass (ten were named “Jonathan” and one was named “Johnita,” after Fr. Opio).
Population Is Power
We also had the chance to speak to about 300 Makerere University law students on the population control agenda and the case against condoms. Among other topics, we emphasized the fundamental fact that a dense population does not necessarily make a country poor. For example, Uganda has an average population density of 136 people per square kilometer, but many nations with denser populations are very rich. South Korea has 501 people per square kilometer; Japan has 338; England has 410; Singapore 7,257; and Hong Kong 6,405.
In other words, population is power. We also pointed out that many population control groups operate in such nations as Botswana and Mauritania, which are almost empty of people; they have only three people per square kilometer, about the same population density as the states of Montana and Wyoming.
We also spoke to about ten thousand young people at a huge Catholic youth conference in Soroti. Fr. Opio and I spoke on God’s wisdom in our lives, with special emphasis on the necessity of avoiding three deadly activities — contraception, abortion, and homosexuality.
In the United States, this would get you laughed at and probably physically assaulted and charged with hate crimes, but here the young people really appreciated it. This shows that we have to teach the people (especially young people) how to recognize the truth and act on it.
The Martyrs Of Uganda
We concluded our very fruitful Uganda missionary trip with a visit to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo, which featured a full-size statue of St. Charles Lwanga being slowly roasted alive by torturers. He and his companions were martyred because they refused the homosexual advances of the corrupt king.
This is a piece of history that many don’t want anyone to know about.
In our travels, we found, as we do all over Africa, that the Ugandan people are naturally and culturally pro-life.
However, they are uninformed about the terrible threat posed by the population control industry to their faith, to their families, and to their nation. It is our mission at Human Life International to warn the people about what the West is planning for them, how they will be approached, and how to respond positively against the pressure.
If we can mobilize and inform the people through the Church and community leaders, it does not matter how many billions of dollars the population controllers spend; Uganda will remain proudly pro-life and pro-family, just as it always has been.
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(Brian Clowes is the director of research and training at Human Life International. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)