[ACNS, by Godfrey Olukya] For the last week all roads in Uganda have been leading to the Namugongo Anglican site where more than 20 Anglican Christians were brutally murdered over a century ago. Thousands of pilgrims have made the journey over hundreds of miles to reach the shrine of the Christian martyrs killed over 100 years ago and remembered on the anniversary today (3 June).
The martyrs were killed at the order of the king of Buganda kingdom, Kabaka Mwanga. On 3 June 1876 he ordered the killing of all the newly converted Christians. Some were Anglicans others were Catholics and some Muslims. All the Christians killed had been converted a few years after the arrival of missionaries from the UK.
The Catholics were the first to recognize the 22 victims as martyrs and commemorate the day on which they were killed. Three Popes have visited the Catholic shrine where the Christians were killed and the martyrs have now been recognized as Catholic saints
Anglicans also visit a dedicated shrine on the site and hold prayers to mark the 23 martyred for their faith. It is now an established pilgrimage place, where thousands of Anglicans travel each year on 3 June.
The Revd James Kato, a member of this year’s organizing committee said, “As a sign of showing solidarity with martyrs, the pilgrims walk from their homes to the shrine established at the site where the Anglican martyrs were killed.”
Over 200,000 Anglican Christians were now camping at the compound next to the shrine and many more are still on their way. Mr Kato said, “Many Christians walked from within Uganda, others have arrived from neighbouring countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan and many more are coming. The biggest number will be brought in by vehicles today (3 June).''
Security is tight at the shrine. The Catholic shrine is located about a kilometres away from the Anglican site and is equally packed with pilgrims. At both shrines there are pilgrims from Europe and USA and organisers are expecting greater numbers this year than ever before. On Wednesday Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni visited the sites and addressed the pilgrims.