By Fr. Peter Vecellio, O.C.D.
In the industrialized world, the most vulnerable are more and more being disregarded, disposed of, and seen as not useful. Abortion and Euthanasia testify to this. On both ends of the life spectrum, the young and the old are not respected as they used to be. Now, of course, there are still many people in these countries who treasure and value life at all stages in their families. But it is undeniable that a cultural shift for the worse has happened in the West.
Although the culture of death is making inroads here in Uganda, it is still beautifully apparent that Ugandans in general highly respect their elders and see children as a blessing from God. And it is their tribal culture that is the foundation for this. I have already been to many big religious and cultural celebrations here in less than three months. Ugandans love to celebrate--and I am amazed how the whole community and tribe is a part of these celebrations. In many of the cultural presentations, children at a very young age are performing either with others or alone. Talk about a great system for building self-confidence!
Last Sunday, I attended the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Diocese of Jinja and saw a group of older women from a tribe perform a dance. In the tribal “system,” everyone has a part to play. These cultural dances are a symbol of a culture that reveres and respects life in all its members.
We in the West can learn a lot about the power of culture in supporting the dignity of each of its members. Just as song and dance are in the very bloodstream of Ugandans, so, too, is there respect for life because of such cultural expressions. Let us work to rebuild a true culture of life!
All photos accompanying this article were taken by Fr. Peter Vecellio, O.C.D.