(By Carolyn Jones/Hands Across Nations)
A look at Uganda where Hands Across Nations is making an impact…
Yes! Under the Mango Tree, Dreams Become Reality. Come and see why this is the theme of the 2017 Hands Across Nations Benefit Dinner/Auction on Saturday, October 7, with doors opening at 4:30 p.m. at the Chewelah Civic Center.
Tickets, for $15 each are available at Akers United Drug in Chewelah, Front Porch Antiques and Produce on Hwy 395 in Arden, and through Michelle Lancaster at 675-5649.
Ugandan and American Traditions and Customs Differ
Living in an African country, Keith and Carolyn Jones, missionaries in Uganda with Hands Across Nations (HAN), have learned that it is a good thing to know some of the traditions and customs of the culture. Otherwise, they may find themselves offending people or feeling offended because they are not being treated as they would be in America. In the 16 years traveling and living in Uganda, they have learned about some of the common ones, though they are still learning
First of all, deeply ingrained ways of thinking and values differ greatly. While Americans revere independence, Ugandans hold their clan, tribe and nation in high esteem above personal independence.
Family and Clan
The smallest unit is the family. When Keith and Carolyn were first in Uganda, they found that nearly everyone who was introduced to them was a father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter of the person introducing them. It seemed as if people had enormous families, until they discovered that every clan member is introduced in these terms.
So knowing who belongs to whom in a nuclear family is not always clear. Every person has at least two names, and maybe three, and none of them have the same “last” name except the husband and wife!! They usually have what they call a “Christian” name such as Susan, or Joseph, and then a second family name such as Omodo or Pule or Anyati, perhaps from a grandfather/mother, uncle or aunt.
Approximately 30 – 35 different tribes exist in Uganda, which is the geographic size of Oregon. The population of 42 million, includes 10 major tribes. The Lango tribe, with which Keith and Carolyn live and work, is one of them. This tribe comprises about six percent of the population and numbers over two million people. Lango men and women are known as fierce fighters, and are some of the strongest military and police members. Women are especially hard workers, as they are expected to run the home and do most of the family garden work.
In the villages, many parents believe that formal education for girls isn’t necessary, as they will become mothers and gardeners, learning from their elders. Boys are the ones most likely to be educated. Since English is the national language of Uganda, those who go to school learn English, but those who are not educated, learn only to speak their tribal language.
However, they do not learn to read and write it. This is one of the major reasons, Hands Across Nations is working with a great number of women in the villages and prisons, teaching them to read, write, and do mathematics. They have bright minds and learn quickly because they are also highly motivated.
Two systems of government rule in Uganda. First, there is the Tribal clan system. More will be covered about this in a later article. Foremost, however is the nationwide system, which includes the President, Constitution, laws, courts, judges, police, and prison system
As HAN has been working in the Lango Sub-region prisons, they have gained some very up close and not-so-friendly experiences with the justice system. Negative cultural practices in the Lango Tribe include jealousy and bribery. These two cultural, very human traits, have landed many people in prison. Jealousy, in the form of resenting their neighbor having more, or do better financially, has led many to steal from their neighbor, or even their family members. Jealousy may cause one to falsely accuse another of something illegal such as “defilement” (molesting a young girl or student), theft, or even murder. The police can be bribed into arresting a person, often without evidence. Then that person may be incarcerated for several years waiting for their case to come to trial. Most can’t come up with an exorbitant bail (or a bribe).
It is a common “understanding” that officers of the court and some judges also accept bribes. The Officer in Charge of the Lira Main Prison, a strong Christian woman, estimated that almost 70 percent of the inmates in her prison are innocent but too poor to fight the charges. Keith is helping prisoners, who are part of the HAN literacy program, to know their constitutional rights and begin to take steps to develop a defense for themselves, so they will be ready when their case comes to trial. They receive a court appointed lawyer only weeks before they must defend themselves, so many end up convicted and in prison for long, undeserved sentences, while their accuser sometimes takes their land and occasionally one of their wives. Polygamy is legal, although it is unacceptable in Ugandan Christian churches.
If Keith and Carolyn had not experienced the plight of these men and women, who are in the Hands Across Nations “Learning to Read to Read the Bible” program, they would not have believed the injustice could be so widespread. The prisoners in the program are becoming great teachers and Godly men and women, as they practice what they have learned from the classes and from reading the Bible. When they return home, they are the best organizers and coordinators of the HAN literacy programs in their own communities. More about that and other traditions in a future article.
Hands Across Nations will be presenting the Annual Benefit Dinner/Auction: “Under the Mango Tree Dreams Become Reality”, on October 7. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. at the Chewelah Civic Center.