3rd JUNE every year in Uganda commemorates the bold decisions of the 45 early converts to Christianity (recognized in the spirit of ecumenism), who fearlessly gave up their lives for the sake of Christianity. Their faith was marked with simple, luminous and joyful trust in God. Their response was to meet hatred with love and thus radiate the splendour of the Gospel. Today, because of their faith and constancy, become venerated as Uganda martyrs canonized in 1964 by Pope John Paul Vl.
Kabaka Mwanga, the ruler of the Buganda kingdom lacked religious conviction and was alienated from the Missionaries. He looked at Christianity as bringing down the wrath of his ancestors and a threat to his authority. The presence of Missionaries was diminishing his powers.
Mwanga who was also a paedophile practitioner, upon realising that the young converts had started rejecting his sexual advances grew enraged and exemplified the cruel streak on missionaries and catechumen.
In 1885, Mwanga had three Anglicans christians dismembered due to their failure to renounce Christianity. This act was meant to serve as a warning to the other subjects. He demanded they confess their Christian allegiance or rather would be executed. All men refused to renounce their faith and declared that they are ready to die for Christianity.
The increase in the number of christians and their staunchness to religion baffled the king and his vengeance was terrible. He decreed that all men be marched to Namugongo …bound by ropes and shackles to be gruesomely executed by beheading, castration, burning and dismembering.
They assured their executors that a Christian who gives his life to God has no reason to fear death,”tell Mwanga that he has condemned me unjustly but I forgive him“.One of the king’s loyal pages Mukasa said. Andrew was impatient to meet his death and suggested to the executors to speed up, ”Why don’t you carry on your orders, am afraid you will get serious problems from your king.” Subsequently Mukasa became the first to be killed for reproaching the king who ordered the killing of bishop Hannington and for being the main conspirator.
The relevancy of the Uganda martyrs to Christianity
Today in Uganda, christians find joy in walking long distances a sign of their commitment to religion.
Prior to his visit in Uganda in 2015, His Holyness Pope Francis urged ugandans that just like the Uganda Martyrs, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit to be like the missonaries and to go forth to bring the gospel to all..we need only to open our eyes and see the need in our homes and communities
The martyrs were young but were never seduced by the values of the king. Out of allegiance to the king, they rejected earthly securities. This act points out how faith can be a rudder that sustains us in such terrible situations, mercy and purity, being meek and poor in spirit but thirsty for righteousness in the hope of eternal reward.
Like the Martyrs who were unfairly condemned, Ugandans are unfairly represented in courts of law, Imprisoned for insubstantial reasons because others want to maintain the status quo given the powers and authority bestowed unto them. The willingness of the Uganda Martyrs to accept death for their religion should be a reflection point for those entrusted with authority.
Martyrdom was mainly a result of the political threat to the king at the time, some Christians today find themselves caught up in political differences as they try to seek for change with suppression and freedom of expression sabotaged. In such circumstances, the church finds it hard to take a position, having to decide who to support.
The churches ought to emulate the Uganda martyrs by encouraging and restoring hope to their believers and speaking boldly about the injustices and impunities in our society