MARTYR’S DAY PILGRIMAGES UNDERWAY
From right across Uganda and other countries in East Africa are Catholic faithful making their long way to the Namugongo Shrine, where the annual ‘Martyrs Day’ is celebrated, a public holiday in Uganda since the church declared the victims of a savage ritual burning decreed by Kabaka Mwanga, the then King of Buganda on Christians, when they denounced their allegiance to him over and above their allegiance to God. Many of the faithful are in fact walking for days already, intending to reach the shrine in time for the June 03rd commemoration and celebrations in Namugongo, located just outside the capital Kampala.
Martyrs Day brings thousands of pilgrims to Uganda year after year, and in recent years many come from far away including regular groups of Catholics from Nigeria who seek the blessings of these Saints, through whom they pray to the Lord. However, pilgrims from Asia and Europe too have started to recognize the importance of this event and began to flock to ‘the Pearl of Africa’ to pray and seek the intervention of Uganda’s saints on their behalf.
June 03rd is annually observed in Uganda and has for long had a galvanizing effect on all Christians across the board in the country, since both Catholics and Anglicans alike were burned alive or else stabbed to death with spears for refusing to accept the dominance of their worldly ruler over the rule of God.
Pope Paul VI, who visited Uganda and prayed at the then newly erected memorial site, canonized the martyrs in a then much publicized ceremony on October 18th of 1964 and in honour of the saints the government of Uganda then created the annual ‘Martyrs Day’.