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Oct 5 Uganda -Ecumenism of Blood

Today Christians took control of the government after enduring years of persecution which had triggered a rebellion. The victory was in large part to the courage of an Anglican, Hamu Mukasa, the son of a minor chief in and had converted to Christianity at a young age and suffered a serious injury during the 1886 massacre of Christians by King Mwanga II.

Mwanga had increasingly regarded the greatest threat to his rule as coming from the Christian missionaries and his father had skilfully played-off three religious traditions - Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims - against each other and had thus balanced the influence of foreign powers. However, his son and heir to the throne Mwanga II, took a much more aggressive approach, expelling missionaries and insisting that Christian converts abandon their faith or face death. A year after becoming king he executed some prominent converts and had the incoming Anglican archbishop James Hannington assassinated on the eastern border of his kingdom. However, it was when the male Catholic pages of his harem resisted his advances that the persecution spiralled out of control. According to tribal tradition, the king was the centre of power and authority, and he could dispense with any life as he wished. It was unheard of for mere pages to reject the wishes of a king. Realising that the pages had been catechised and baptised, Mwanga was determined to rid his kingdom of the new teaching and its followers. He ordered converts in his court to choose between their new faith and complete obedience to his orders and kingdom. Twenty-two of the men, who had converted to Catholicism, were burned alive at Namugongo in 1886 and later became known as the Uganda Martyrs. Among those executed were two Christians, who had authority and had repeatedly defied the king by rescuing the boys in their care from sexual exploitation.

These murders alarmed the British, concerned about the stability and sanity of Mwanga, they backed a rebellion by Christian and Muslim groups who supported Mwanga's half-brother who was elevated to the throne. However it was a time of turmoil and he lasted exactly one month before being replaced on the throne by another brother. Mwanga escaped and negotiated with the British that exchanging some of his sovereignty to the British East Africa Company, this allowed him sign a treaty with Lord Lugard, which granted certain powers over revenue, trade and the administration of justice to the Imperial British East Africa Company. The country became a Protectorate for a short while until the unreliable and unstable Mwanga declared war on the British, was defeated and fled into German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania), where he was arrested and interned at Bukoba. He was deposed in absentia and then exiled to the Seychelles. While in exile, he repented for his crimes and was received into the Anglican Church and was baptized with the name of Danieri (Daniel). He spent the rest of his life in exile. He died in the Seychelles aged 35.

Ham Mukasa who would prove decisive in ending the persecution against Christians had been placed in the palace as a page at the age of nine by his father, a clan chief While in the palace, Mukasa received instruction from Islamic teachers who held sway in court; however, he was later drawn to the Anglicans, who baptised him Ham. It was as a Christian, that he took part in Buganda's religious wars of 1888–1892. Mukasa was appointed the county chief in 1905, and served in the position until 1935 when he retired. He travelled to England for the coronation of Edward VII of the United Kingdom, as secretary to the Prime Minister of Uganda staying at Alexandra Palace, and met with a variety of people such as writer Henry Morton Stanley (see pod of Mar 14 )

Years after the death of some of the Catholics, Charles Lwanga, Mathias Mulumba and their companions, many people started seeking for their intercession and individuals and small parties visiting their execution sites. A Dutch priest, then based at Nsambya, walked with a group of Christians to Namugongo and celebrated Holy Mass at the spot where Charles Lwanga was martyred. After Mass he erected a cross at the same spot and this marked the beginning of pilgrimages to Namugongo. A huge basilica has now been built close to the spot where Saint Charles Lwanga and Saint Kizito were burned to death in 1886 on the orders of Mukasa. Every year an annual celebration is held on 3rd June; which the government has declared as a national public holiday in commemoration of the first Christian Martyrs in the country. The Uganda Martyrs Day attracts pilgrims from all corners of the world making it one of the biggest Christian events in the world. This celebration has a series of events that start a month earlier; with a Novena that begins on 25th May

2014 marked fifty years since the Uganda Martyrs were canonized and elevated to Sainthood by Pope Paul VI and Pope Francis visited Uganda in November 2015, and celebrated mass outside the basilica at Namugongo, with a congregation of over a million. In his homily he said - I think of saints' Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga, who after being catechized by others, wanted to pass on the gift they had received. They did this in dangerous times. – we remember also the Anglican martyrs whose deaths for Christ's testify to the ecumenism of blood. All these witnesses nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives Their response was to meet hatred with love, and thus to radiate the splendor of the Gospel. They did not simply tell the king what the Gospel does not allow but showed through their lives what saying "yes" to Jesus really means. It means mercy and purity of heart, being meek and poor in spirit, and thirsting for righteousness in the hope … Omukama Abawe Omukisa! (God bless you!)"


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