Photo Credit: Facebook Anglican Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo
ACNS, by Godfrey Olukya] More than one million Christians, including Anglicans and Catholics, from all over the world converged at Namugongo village in central Uganda last week (3 June), to commemorate the killing of 45 martyrs 130 years ago. Speaking at the event, the Ugandan Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, described the village as ‘a centre of heroism’.
It’s estimated nearly nine thousand people of those attending the commemoration came from Tanzania and Kenya – with hundreds more making the journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria and Malawi. The pilgrims took to buses, taxis, cars, motorcycles and even lorries to be at the ceremony. One of the organisers, the Revd Simon Kityo said that some from neighbouring countries had even come on foot. Other visitors came from the USA, South Africa, Ireland, UK and Canada.
Dr Rugunda read a speech from President Museveni. He said, ''The government will work with the church to turn Namugongo into a major tourist destination because of its historic significance.'' He also said the place had become a centre of heroism in the country and the courageous act of the martyrs had changed the face of Christianity in Uganda and the rest of the world.
At the Church of Uganda site at Namugongo, Archbishop Stanley Ntangali appealed to believers to contribute to the financial shortfall to complete the construction of the martyrs’ museum.
The Anglicans converged for prayers at the site called Kayanja where the majority of the martyrs were killed while the Catholics held their mass at Namugogo shrine where the leader of the Catholic martyrs Charles Lwanga was killed. The two places are about one kilometre apart.
At the Anglican site, where 23 Anglicans and 20 Catholics were killed by the King of Buganda in 1886, a museum is being built to display items linked to the martyrs and help tell their story.
The main sermon at the Anglican site was given by Bishop Dr Samuel Chukwudi Ezeofor from Nigeria. He said, ''I request Christians to emulate Ugandan martyrs. Those young men died because no one could make them turned away from God. Their lives would have been spared if they denounced Christianity as the king demanded but they refused to do so.'' He also said many Christians had denied their faith in order to get things like promotion at work and sponsorship, but the martyrs had discovered the secret that it is better to die than to deny Jesus.