Commemoration: Martyrs of Uganda
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Annually on June 3
The Martyrs of Uganda,
St. Kizito was the youngest Martyr (PHOTO/Courtesy)
St. Charles Lwanga was the leader of the martyrs (PHOTO/File)
Mutesa I of Buganda - the "Father of Uganda's Formal Education" - invited Anglican and Catholic missionaries into his kingdom. During his reign, suspicions towards converts were kept from escalating. However, the lives of Christians in Uganda drastically changed under Mutesa's successor, King Mwanga II.
Mwanga became increasingly frusterated by Christians' loyalty to Christ above the king. A practicing pedophile, Mwanga grew further enraged when his sexual advances were spurned by several of his royal pages who had converted to Christianity.
On January 18, 1885, Mwanga ordered three Anglicans - Joseph Rugarama, Mark Kakumba, and Noah Serwanga - dismembered and burned at the stake. A few months later, Mwanga ordered the execution of the newly arrived Anglican bishop, James Hannington. When Joseph Mukasa - a senior adviser and a recent Catholic convert - reproached Mwanga for the execution of the Angican bishop, the king ordered Mukasa's beheading (which took place on November 15, 1885).
On June 3, 1887, twenty-three young Anglican and Catholic men (all of whom were pages in the royal court) were burned to death in Namugongo for refusing to denounce their Christian faith. Many more Christians were put to death - by spear or by fire - in the months that followed.
Mwanga's desire to wipe out Christianity backfired. "The example of these martyrs, who walked to their deaths singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years the original handful of converts had multiplied... The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity was truly African, not simply a white man's religion. Most of the missionary work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and Christianity spread steadily," (http://justus.anglican.org/).
"Renewed persecution of Christians in the 1970's by the military dictatorship of Idi Amin proved the vitality of the example of the Namugongo martyrs. Among the thousands of new martyrs, both Anglican and Roman, was Janani Luwum, Archbishop of the (Anglican) Church of Uganda," (http://justus.anglican.org/).
PRAYER (traditional language):
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.