The Uganda Martyrs are a group of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now part of Uganda, who were executed between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887
They were killed on orders of Mwanga II, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda. The deaths took place at a time when there was a three-way religious struggle for political influence at the Buganda royal court. The episode also occurred against the backdrop of the “Scramble for Africa” – the invasion, occupation, division, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers. A few years after, the English Church Missionary Society used the deaths to enlist wider public support for the British acquisition of Uganda for the Empire. The Catholic Church beatified the 22 Catholic martyrs of its faith in 1920 and canonized them in 1964.
President Museveni yesterday pledged funding to upgrade the Anglican martyrs shrine at Namugongo to a sparkling status to match the Catholic one in the same vicinity.
The President made the pledge while addressing thousands of pilgrims during the Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations at the Anglican Shrine in respect to the 23 Anglican converts who were executed in 1885 by the then king of Buganda, Kabaka Mwanga.
“We are going to build this place. We have done a lot at the museum and we will continue. Here, the place is slippery and people may fall. We have to build here as we did there at your friends’ (Catholics) place,” Mr Museveni told the congregation.
He said his commitment towards upgrading the Anglican site has been motivated by the way the Anglicans are beginning to embrace pilgrimage at their shrine.
“For a long time, the Church of Uganda has not embraced this day. You had slept but now you are waking up. When we declared June 3 as a public holiday,...I would go to the Catholics [Catholics’ shrine] and it would be full but there would be a handful of pilgrims here. Since I have come here and enjoyed, I will give more because for the Catholics, the place is now good,” Mr Museveni said.
Martyrs Day was declared a public holiday by Parliament under the Public Holidays Act 1965.
Mr Museveni said government spent about Shs90b to develop the Catholic Martyrs Shrine at Namugongo.
He said half of the money was used to buy the land while the other part was given to the Catholic Church in grants to develop the place.
He appealed to Christians to contribute towards completion of the museum and the Anglican shrine complex. President Museveni surprised the congregation when he arrived during the service and shook hands with his political rival and four-time presidential contender, Dr Kizza Besigye.
Since their fallout in 2000, the duo had not shaken hands in public until Pope Francis’ visit at Catholic Martyrs Shrine on November 28, 2015.
Moments later, when the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, introduced Dr Besigye among the political leaders present, the congregation burst into a loud applause.
While preaching to the pilgrims, Bishop David Grant Williams of Basingstoke, UK, asked the Christians to emulate the Uganda martyrs who did not relent on their faith in the face of death.
“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,” he said. Bishop Williams, 57, born in Reading, UK, spent his childhood and youth time in Uganda.
He attended Nakasero Primary School in Kampala before moving to Kigezi High School when his father was transferred from Mulago hospital to then Kigezi District as a medical officer.
Bishop Williams, who occasionally spoke in Luganda, commended President Museveni for good leadership.
Other officials at the celebrations included Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, cabinet ministers and other MPs.
Source Monitor UK
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