By Spy Uganda
Kampala: HE. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on Wednesday pledged one billion shillings towards preparations for the Martyrs Day celebration and Fort portal cathedral renovation.
Museveni made the pledge while meeting a delegation from Kabarole to discuss the upcoming Uganda Martyrs day celebrations to be held on June 3, 2022, and other issues concerning Fort Portal Diocese.
The meeting took place at the President’s country home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura District and Bishop Muhiirwa took this opportunity to invite him to be the chief guest for this year’s Martyrs Day celebration at Namugongo, which invitation the President accepted.
Fort Portal Diocese which last organized Uganda Martyrs celebrations 25yrs ago, was chosen to lead this year’s celebration after a two-year lull due to Covid-19 induced lockdown. Uganda went into lockdown in March 2020, three months ahead of the celebration and with the cancellation of all gatherings, the last two years had only a handful of people invited to celebrate at Namugongo, while the rest observed the day from home.
This year’s celebration will be held under the theme, “Baptised and sent to witness Christ with love and hope’’.
Millions of pilgrims from within and outside Uganda are expected to visit Namugongo, the site where the majority of the converts were martyred, in celebration of their bravery, making the fete a key event on the Church Calendar.
The Bishop commended the President and the Government for the tremendous programmes aimed at helping Ugandans improve their household incomes, like the Emyooga programme and Parish Development Model (PDM).
“President, the Emyooga programme that has been running as well as the Parish Development Model that was launched this year in February are so much crucial to halt and reverse the trend of poverty and to help Uganda become a United, caring and a democratic society committed to making the basic needs affordable,” Bishop Muhiirwa said.
History of Ugandan Martyrs’ Day
From the start of his reign in 1884, King Mwanga had viewed foreign missionaries as the greatest threat to his kingdom and power base. He expelled missionaries and threatened converts to renounce their new faith or face execution.
In total, 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity were executed between January 31st 1885 and January 27th 1887. On June 3rd 1886, 32 young men were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. They were a combination of Anglican and Catholic converts.
Mwanga’s actions led to a British backed revolution that overthrew the King in 1888. Mwanga negotiated with the British and in exchange for handing over some of his sovereignty to the British East Africa Company, the British helped reinstate Mwanga to the throne in 1889. After a further spate of double-crossing, he was finally deposed in 1897. While in exile he was converted to an Anglican.
There are Catholic and Anglian shrines to the Martyrs close to each other in Namugongo. Each year Martyrs Day attracts millions of pilgrims to the area with many coming from beyond Uganda.
The Catholic Church beatified the 22 Catholic martyrs in 1920 and canonized them as Saints of the universal Church in 1964.
In 2015, Pope Francis visited Namugongo, where he celebrated Holy Mass. Before the Mass, Pope Francis paid homage to the Anglican martyrs at the Anglican shrine.