As part of my trip to Uganda (July 14-29, 2014), the group I will be with from St. Anne’s Church in Hamel, MN will be visiting the Basilica dedicated to those who died for their Christian faith in the 1880s. Christians and Muslims alike were seen as a threat to King Mwanga II’s authority. As a result missionaries as well as converts were persecuted. Archbishop James Harrington of the Church of England was assassinated on October 29, 1885. Reports vary, but at least forty-five Christians were killed in the coming purge. Twenty-two of them were Roman Catholic Ugandans, who were burned alive in Namugongo on June 3, 1886. As he was being burned, Father Charles (Karoli) Lwanga is attributed as saying, “It is as if you are pouring water on me. Please repent and become a Christian like me.”
The Ugandan Martyrs became revered not only by locals but throughout the African continent. They were beatified in 1920 and became saints in the Roman Catholic Church on October 18, 1964. In his homily at their canonization, Pope Paul VI said, “Indeed, do we wish to forget the others who, belonging to the Anglican confession, confronted death in the name of Christ.” It is encouraging for me to consider the ecumenical heritage and spirit in which these Christians are remembered, especially as a Lutheran pilgrim who is traveling with a Roman Catholic group. I remember the prayer of Jesus, “Father protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11) and the words from the letter to the Ephesians (4:4-6), “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” We are one in Christ, and it takes all of us walking together by the Spirit’s urging and guidance to remind each other of the promise of unity amidst the world’s violence and divisions. The Basilica of the Ugandan Martyrs in Namugongo was built in their honor. Our group will visit and attend mass there on Sunday, July 27, 2014.
I’m looking forward to my pilgrimage to Uganda, and the living faith among the people I will both travel with and meet while I am there. As I set forth on this journey, I leave you with the question that is the theme of our trip,
“Where is God calling me to serve today?”
Where indeed? Sometimes a trip far away leads to new insights, but most of the time it is simply looking out our window, paying attention to what you, and stepping outside to meet it. Thankfully most of us are not called upon to be martyrs, but all of us are called to serve. Let us do so remembering the water the claims us in Jesus name, wherever it is we are.
Take care. Be well. Serve boldly.
Helpful links about the Ugandan Martyrs: