Thousands upon thousands on Sunday flocked Namugongo for Martyrs day celebrations, an annual event observed every 3 June to commemorate the martyrdom of 45 Christians.
The Martyrs – some speared, burned, castrated, ravaged by wild animals, beheaded or dismembered – were killed for their faith following the orders of the then King of Buganda Kabaka Mwanga between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887.
The Guest of Honor was President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and he called on the pilgrims to live an exemplary life, urging that their bodies are the Lord’s temple.
“The Bible says our bodies are the Lord’s temple but how can a body that has ignorance, alcohol, prostitution and poverty be a house of God? We therefore have to revise our ways, ” he said.
The President was pleased to see the number of Anglican pilgrims grow by the year and saluted the work done by the Late Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkooyoyo.
That number was 3500% higher than last year’s numbers which stood at 20,000 according to officials on the organizing committee.
Reverend Canon Benon Byarugaba, chairman liturgy and choirs for the Martyrs Day celebrations told Journalists that this year, the moblisation and publicity was done on a massive scale which explains the massive projections.
“Government will continue to support works on both the Anglican and Catholic grounds to make the experience for pilgrims at these holy places even better,” Museveni said.
On poverty eradication, President Museveni who was accompanied by the First Lady Janet Museveni said, “we have agreed with the Inter-religious council to mobilise Christians and Muslim to chase poverty out of your homes.”
Additionally, he stated that he will look into the reports surrounding the Anglican church house with hopes to settle the issue in favor of the church.
The Church borrowed up to Shs 38Billion from Equity Bank and another Shs 5Billion to complete the magnificent building, but has since failed to pay the loan, media sources revealed earlier.
“I saw in the papers today that you are panicking over the issue of the Church House; that they want to take it away from you because of a debt,” said the President.
“I said, no; that will not be possible. As long a God still keeps me here, through you.”
“We started on that work with Archbishop (Luke) Orombi, and now for traders to come and take away our house at the very end, that cannot happen.” Museveni said.
The Guest preacher was Rt. Rev. Grant Williams of Diocese of Winchester. He based his sermon on the theme for the day; “Be faithful up to the point of death and I will give you a crown of life. Rev2:10b”.
He encouraged the pilgrims to be faithful in their walk with Jesus Christ, serve Christs kingship and also learn to differentiate between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to Jesus.
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali presided over the function at the Anglican shrine as Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwangain did the same at the Catholic Shrine – Namugongo. This year’s Anglican celebrations were organised by the four dioceses of greater Kigezi, namely, Muhabura, Kinkizi, Kigezi and North Kigezi.
President Museveni on arrival at the Catholic Shrine reached out to his long time political opponent, former FDC presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye during the day’s prayers that had nearly come to an end.
The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda together with his predecessor Amama Mbabazi were spearheading preparations for this year’s Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations.
Others spotted at Namugogo included State Minister for Planning David Bahati, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Party President, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga among others.
Pilgrims were warned against drinking unpurified ‘holy water’ from the man-made lake and spring wells at the Catholic and Anglican martyrs shrines.
Dr Charles Mupere a health team leader advised pilgrims to boil the water or treat it accordingly since it might be contaminated. Pilgrims hold a belief that “the water has powers to cure them from ailments. Others believe the water gives them some kind of protection from evil and that it also brings with it lots of blessings.”