Uganda remembers The Martyrs of Uganda who died for their Faith on June 3rd each year.
On June 3rd – Join Uganda’s Martyr’s Day Celebrations in Namugongo
The Martyrs of Uganda who died for their Faith – June 3 is Martyr’s Day, where the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of Uganda honor the Martyrs who gave their lives for those they believed in and became the seed of the Uganda Church its Faith and Beliefs.
22 Catholics and 23 Church of Uganda (Anglican) were executed for their faith and refusal to renounce it by Kabaka Mwanga. The execution for most was on June 3rd, 1886. The Day is commemorated each year in Uganda by millions and by Catholics in particular around the world.
The Muslim Community remembers the over 70 young men executed for their Faith in 1878 by Kabaka Mutesa l. The site, which had been a mosque, A proper memorial, has been promised, reiterated in 2019, but it comes down to lack of funds.
The Martyrs of Uganda died for their Faith at Namugongo. The Martyr’s Shrine, the Basilica, has been visited by three Pope, including Pope Francis, who celebrated Mass here and saw the other Martyr site at Munyonyo. The Ugandan Martyr’s faith beyond Belief is part of the History of the Church, the history of Uganda as a nation.
Martyrs Day Interfaith Commemoration is on June 3rd
June 3rd in Uganda is Martyrs Day, commemorating a group of young Christian Men who paid the Ultimate Sacrifice of Dedication to God. They are honored for their Faith and Belief in Christ in a joint Catholic and Anglican Commemorative Service where millions attend,
The Pilgrims and Visitors come not only from Uganda but from other parts of Africa and beyond. Many of those that make the pilgrimage to Namugongo, young and old, do so on foot from DR Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania.
Pilgrims, Tourists, and many other people gather at Namungo for various reasons. It is about respecting those for whom Christianity was beyond religion, but their faith lived out in life and death.
Some come because it is the place to be on June 3rd. It is a place of commemoration and celebration of their courage and faith in Uganda. For others, it is a place of personal reflection, prayer, and an examination of one’s life in the light of how the young martyrs showed themselves. Some come seeking a miracle for themselves or others. All come motivated by Faith in Hope in God.
Namugongo – like other sacred places of faith in other parts of the world, the Martyrs Site attracts the high and mighty and the least, last and lost, seeking an encounter with God who sustains us during tough times
They gather in a place where others go to meet their maker as Martyrs singing in Luganda “Bulijjo tutendereza ekibuga kyaffe. Ekyakubibwa mu Ggulu, Yesu kyeyazimba. Singa mbadde n’ebiwaawa nga Bamalayika, Nandibuuse, nandituuse eri mu Sayuni”
The English Hymn – Daily, daily we sing Praises. Scriptures were not only in their heads but in their hearts. Revelation 2:10 “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” They thus died singing in Faith Believing in Christ until the end entering into the presence of the Lord.
Namugongo Martyrs Site, both the Catholic Basilica and the Anglican Museum, draws people from all backgrounds on June 3rd each year and throughout, including Tourists and visitors from around the world who come to see, reflect, and pray or see Uganda’s past in the present times.
We invite you to if you are coming from various parts of the world. We would love to make all the arrangements for your June third visit.
The Muslim Martyrs that died for their Faith
Namugongo was an execution site and here not are there Christian Martyrs but Muslim ones. The Muslims were executed at an earlier time by orders from Kabaka Mutesa l. Today, Muslims commemorate the 74 Muslim Martyrs that dies for their Faith between 1874 and 1876 on June 1, each year at the Masjid Noor Shahadau ‘Muslim Martyrs’ Mosque in Namugongo.
Islam came first to Uganda via Arab Traders from the Coast, and many in the Buganda Kingdom were converted to Islam from their traditional beliefs.
They were taught to read the Koran and had instructions on living as Muslims. That Allah was supreme and not the Kabaka. Something that went counter to the belief of those who belonged to the Buganda Kingdom.
King Mutesa l partially adopted Islam but refused to be circumcised, and he wondered why fewer and fewer were coming to prayers each day that he administered.
Muslims also refused to eat the King’s meat since it had been butchered in a non-Halal manner. These repeated refusals led to the execution of over 70 Muslims. Most martyrs were executed at Namugongo, which was an execution site in the Kingdom.
The Christian Martyrs that died for their Faith
When it comes to Christianity – First came the Explorers such as John Hanning Speke in 1862 in search of the Source of the Nile, and he met with Mutesa-l, and he was impressed by the kingdom that he found as was Henry Morton Stanley, who came to the Buganda Kingdom in 1875.
The first Anglican Church Missionaries sent by the British Protestant Society arrived in 1875 due to Henry Morton Stanley’s suggestion to King Mutesa l to allow Christian Missionaries to come.
In 1877, the First French Roman Catholic White Fathers arrived. Both the Catholics and Protestants made converts in the Kingdom, and Islam continued to grow. The Catholics and Protestants began to be antagonistic, creating friction and fractions in the Kingdom.
Kabaka Mutesa died, and Kabaka Mwanga-ll replaced him. A man who did a lot to hold on to his position of power. He was pretty young and unable to deal with the various factions in the Kingdom. It included frictions sparked by the differences between Catholics, Protestants, and even Muslims. Each group zealously gathered new converts because Kabaka Mwanga never committed himself to any religious group.
Each Group tried to gain maximum influence at the court of Kabaka Mwanga ll, and there was lots of infighting in the court. Muslims denounced Mwanga ll for his refusal to be circumcised, and Christians denounced him because of his polygamy – he had at least 85 wives. All groups began to put their loyalties first to God, denouncing traditional ways and adopting the morality and ideas of their religion.
Kabaka Mwanga turned on the Christians – even on his attendant who was a devout convert to the Catholic Faith whose name was Joseph Mukasa and who had brought many to Christ – up to 500 young men and boys who were pages in the court of the Kabaka. These young pages respected Joseph Mukasa and followed his lead as he led them into their faith with Christ. Mukasa was also admired by Kabaka Mwanga ll since Joseph Mukasa once killed a snake with his bare hands as it was about to strike the Kabaka.
Non-Christian advisors who were jealous of Joseph Mukasa began to poison the mind of the Kabaka, telling him that Mukasa was no longer loyal to the Kabaka but another King – Jesus the King of Kings. The Kabaka was not only angry at Joseph Mukasa but against his newly converted pages – both Catholic and Anglican who refused the sexual advances of the Kabaka.
When Kabaka Mwanga ll planned to kill the new and first Anglican Bishop James Hannington – Joseph Mukasa warned him not to do so, and the Kabaka went ahead and had the archbishop put to death. John Mukasa further enraged the Kabaka when he opposed the Kabaka from using young pages as sex partners. John Mukasa taught the boys how to avoid sexual encounters with the Kabaka and stay out of his way.
Kabaka Mwanga was so enraged that he decided to make an example of John Mukasa’s disobedience and had him put to death. He ordered that John Mukasa be burned alive for being a traitor to the kingdom.
John Mukasa’s response was one based on his abiding faith in Christ – as he was facing his executioner, he told him, “a Christian who gives his life for God has no reason to fear death…. Tell Mwanga, he, “that he has condemned me unjustly, but I forgive him with all my heart.” The executioner did not burn him but beheaded him as a merciful act and then burned his body.
The Kabaka, who still was enraged, demanded the loyalty of all of his Christian pages by renouncing their Christian Faith – if they did not do that, the result would be death for them. Charles Lwanga had taken place as head of the pages. He became their spiritual leader and, like Mukasa before him, protected the boys from the advances of the Kabaka. He continuously taught them how to keep their faith amid persecution.
One evening when the Kabaka returned to his residence, he found out that a page – Denis Ssebuggwawo, had been instructing Kabaka’s favorite boy in the faith. He ordered that Denis Ssebuggwawo be put to death, and he was taken out and hacked to death.
Events were reaching a horrible climax. Kabaka Mwanga ll ordered all pages to attend a meeting. He ordered all Those who did not pray to stand with him – those who prayed were ordered to stand on the other side – the youngest – Kizzito, was only 14.
He sentenced those who prayed to death and to be burned alive at Namugongo – they were led on the 25-kilometer walk – they were closely tied up but kept up their spirits by praying aloud, reciting Bible Verses, and the Catholic Catechism while they were being led to their death.
Three were speared to end along the way – the rest arrived at a large funeral pyre. The young men encouraged one another in their faith as they were wrapped in dried leaves with wood over them – as the flames raged, only prayers and hymns could be heard even as they became faint as death approached.
Christians were killed at Namugongo and all over the Kingdom and beyond. Those who were sought out were those who had instructed others in the faith were beheaded, burned, dismembered, speared, and attacked by wild dogs.
The Christian Martyrs were young but men of faith, not seduced by the temptations of the court of the Kabaka. They served a higher king than the Kabaka – the King of Kings or in Luganda – Katonda.
Was their sacrifice in vain? Today the Church in Uganda is Comprised of Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical, and Pentecostal Congregations, and Evangelicals and Pentecostals have excluded themselves from commemorations. The Churches in Uganda are growing and thriving.
June 3rd, Martyr’s Day, is an acknowledgment that these young men were the seed of the Church, which now has come to fruition and developed into a sturdy tree though with different branches.
When the church was again persecuted in Uganda by Idi Amin, men such as Archbishop Janani Luwum, who was k, killed by Idi Amin, Bishop Festo Kivengere, and others did not waiver from their commitment to Christ just as the Martyrs had before them.
Today the Church in Uganda, the Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical, and Pentecostal Church Uganda is growing and thriving. June 3rd, Martyr’s Day, is an acknowledgment that these young men were the seed of the Church, which now has come to fruition and developed into a great tree though with different branches. From the beginning, Ugandan Christians are now actively proclaiming their faith all over the Globe. The Ugandan Church is no longer primarily a receiving Church but a sending Church well represented worldwide.
If you have some extra time in Kampala – visit Namugongo – a critical time, and you will realize why most Ugandans are people of faith – it is because of the seed of the martyrs of Uganda – perpetuated by other faithful Men and Women since that time.
On June 3rd, every year, hundreds of thousands [over 1.5 million] make the pilgrimage to Namugongo to remember The Martyrs of Uganda who died for their faith, those who were Catholic and have been canonized as saints who withstood the temptations before them.
The Christian Martyrs of Uganda did not die in Vain
The light of Faith is continuous to shine in Uganda. The Christian Martyrs did not die in vain. The forces of darkness have tried but cannot extinguish the Flames of Faith that continue from the martyrs until this day. Uganda continues to be a country where the church is growing in numbers.
The Catholic Church, the Church of Uganda, and especially the Born-Again Pentecostal Churches thrive.
The freedom to worship without fear exists in Uganda, and churches are filled with worshippers each Sunday. People from all levels of Ugandan society attend church weekly without restraint.
The persecution the Martyrs faced, the persecution the church suffered under Idi Amin is today’s history- Daily Ugandans sing Praises, like the Martyrs, to their God.