Thousands of Christians from Uganda and neighbouring countries are arriving this weekend in Namugongo for special services to commemorate the Ugandan Martyrs.
This speaks to the astonishing history of Christian Martyrdom in the country extending from
- those beheaded or burned alive in his court by Mwanga II, King of Buganda,
- who also had killed Bishop James Hannington (3 September 1847 – 29 October 1885) an English Anglican missionary who was the first Anglican bishop of East Africa; through in recent times to
- Janani Jakaliya Luwum (c. 1922 – 17 February 1977) who was the archbishop of the Church of Uganda from 1974 to 1977 and one of the most influential leaders of the modern church in Africa. (He was arrested in February 1977 and died shortly after in a contrived “car crash” though his bullet ridden body later attested to has having been murdered at the behest of the then-President Idi Amin.)
Those being commemorated particularly this weekend – as happens every year in Uganda on what is a national day of observance, are however those killed in 1866 by Mwanga II in circumstances that still deeply affect the country and region on account of the very particular and predatory sexual context of the King’s actions.
The following general report from this weekend is from ACNS while a link to separate reflections follow http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2018/06/uganda-holds-ceremonies-at-namugongo-to-honour-its-martyrs.aspx:
In 3 June 1886, the Kabaka – or King – of Buganda, Mwanga II, killed 32 young Anglicans and Roman Catholic men – who worked as his pages – by burning them alive at Namugongo. They were among 23 Anglicans and 22 Roman Catholics who were put to death by the king for killed by for refusing to recant their faith between 1885 and 1887.
Yesterday, services were held at both the Anglican and Roman Catholic shrines in Namugongo, led by bishops from both Churches. Other similar events will be held in the coming days, leading up to national commemorations on Sunday.
Speaking at a service in the Anglican shrine yesterday, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Uganda, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, asked Ugandans to repent over the widespread kidnaps and killings of women and children in the country, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper. “We have lost many people through kidnaps and murder,” he said. “We need to use this time to repent. We need to ask God to forgive us because we have sinned in different ways. The martyrs suffered because of their faith and as the Joint Christian Council, we need to take this time not to preach to convert people to our religions but bring ourselves together to fight against the ongoing evil in our country.”
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, speaking at the Catholic shrine, echoed the call, saying: ““What is our purpose as the Church when there are all these murders and kidnaps? We call upon security organs to quickly bring this mess to its end. We are living in an evil world and we need to help each other and encourage ourselves to repent.”
Although there are separate Anglican and Roman Catholic shrines, the joint ecumenical services at each one were not extraordinary. In 2015 Pope Francis visited the Anglican shrine with Archbishop Stanley during his visit to Uganda, and spoke of the “ecumenism of blood”….. (ACNS)
The following words of Prayer are apposite
O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed Of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN
For a Roman Catholic reflection on the Uganda Martyrs see the following account by Fr James Martin S.J. https://www.americamagazine.org/content/all-things/story-ugandan-martyrs
And for an Anglican one see