The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has pledged government funds to help re-build the Anglican Martyrs Shrine at Namugongo. His comments were made as a reported four million pilgrims descended on the area yesterday (Sunday 3 June) for Martyrs Day services. Reports indicate that an estimated 700,000 of them were at the service at the Anglican shrine. The museum at the Anglican site re-opened after refurbishment ahead of a visit by Pope Francis in 2015. There are now plans to improve the shrine itself.
“We are going to build this place. We have done a lot at the museum and we will continue,” he said, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper. “Here, the place is slippery and people may fall. We have to build here as we did there [the Roman Catholic shrine] at your friends’ place.”
He said that the Roman Catholic Church had a longer history of marking Martyrs Day; but that the Anglican Church had been “waking up” to the opportunities since it was made a public holiday. “Some of you do not know that the majority of the Martyrs were Protestants,” he said, according to The Tower Post. “You used not to pay so much attention to this day but now you are awake. I congratulate you. We are going to develop this place like that of your brothers because I have noticed that the gradient here is too steep.”
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, escorts President Yoweri Museveni at the Anglican Shrine in Namugongo yesterday (Sunday).
Photo: Anglican Church of Uganda, via Facebook
The Bishop of Basingstoke in the Church of England’s Diocese of Winchester, preached the sermon during the service. Bishop David Williams, who grew up in Uganda, said to them: “On this day, 45 young men refused to renounce Jesus Christ. As pilgrims and visitors, are we ready to say the same that until the last breath we cannot renounce Jesus? We all came here because we need to rediscover the anchor of the Christian church.”
In addition to President Museveni, dignitaries at the service included Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, and opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye.
The service yesterday was one of a number of events to commemorate the anniversary.
A soldier from the Uganda People's Defence Force has been arrested after four soldiers were shot at a camp a short distance from the Namugongo shrines. UPDF spokesman Brigadier Richard Karemire told the Daily Monitor that a corporal “shot four of his colleagues and was arrested immediately.” He said that the four injured soldiers had been taken to hospital and were out of danger.