Today in Uganda, thousands of people will have walked many kilometres, in fact thousands of them to gather at the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine in Namugongo for commemoration of Martyrs Day. Happy Martyrs day.
Pilgrims from all walks of life Christian do this yearly. They walk on foot for hundreds or thousands of kilometers. Uganda gets many pilgrims from the surrounding countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, DRC (Congo), CAR, Burundi and many who fly into Uganda for this day.
Many priests and pastors are involved int this yearly event. They help to mobilise their congregations to make that long and hard trip on foot to walk to the Martyrs shrines (we have two, Catholic and Anglican).
Security is very tight. The Ugandan government pays a lot of attention to this one day (besides other days) to protect all the pilgrims.
The theme of this year’s celebrations is, “Faithful to the end.”
President Yoweri Museveni is expected to attend.
The 3 June Uganda Martyrs’ Day annually commemorates the martyrdom of 45, mostly young, Ugandan men who converted to Christianity between the years 1885 and 1887. The conversions was not taken easilyby then the King of Buganda, Kabaka Mwanga II.
King Mwanga ordered for the converts to be burnt to death.
Joseph Mukasa was the first to be executed on 15 November 1885 and then many more were executed after him.
The Catholic Martyrs were canonised on 18 October 1964 by Pope Paul VI in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Many bishops from from the world over witnessed the canonising.
Celebrating the Uganda martyrs is Anglicans and Roman Catholic. The martyrs were from both religious groups. The Roman Catholic shrine and the Anglican shrine lie next to each other when you visit Namugongo.
According to documents at Namugongo, over one million pilgrims from Uganda and beyond attended last year’s Martyrs’ Day celebrations.
Some of you will remember that Pope Francis visited Uganda in 2015 and commemorated the Uganda Martyrs.
He is not the first Pope to visit the shrines of the Martyrs in Uganda.
Prior to Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II had visited Uganda and paid homage to the shrines for the Martyrs.
Opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye also penned a handwritten letter to wish Ugandans a great Martyrs’ day.