Martyrs Day Celebrations in Full Swing as Pilgrims Flock to Namugongo Shrine

The Martyrs Day celebration is in full swing, attracting a large number of enthusiastic pilgrims who are patiently waiting in long queues to gain entry into the venue.

The Catholic shrines along Namugongo-Sonde Road are witnessing extended lines that stretch for nearly a kilometer from the main entrance. Security officers are working diligently to maintain order as an increasing number of people pour in from all directions, although some irritation is evident among those who have been waiting for a while.

In an effort to streamline the entry process, organizers have made the decision to prioritize individuals without bags. A police officer stationed near Zai Angelina Health Centre is instructing those without bags to proceed and requesting them to place any items they are carrying in their hands for inspection. However, this decision has led to some discontent among those with bags who feel it is unfair as they arrived earlier.

One elderly woman voiced her complaint about the perceived injustice, prompting the police to momentarily halt bag checks. Eventually, individuals with bags were allowed to place them down for inspection by police dogs. Compared to last year, when the number of pilgrims was relatively low due to the country’s ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s turnout has significantly increased. The current numbers evoke memories of pre-pandemic times if not slightly surpassing them. Local residents in the area have attested to the surge in pilgrim numbers, with reports of a large group of approximately 5,000 pilgrims arriving from Jinja.

Fortunately, the weather this year has been relatively cool, in contrast to the previous year when rain dampened the eve and morning of the festivities. Although there were initial concerns about rain in the morning, the threat subsided later on. Both the Anglican and Catholic shrines are abuzz with celebrations. At the Catholic shrine, the Diocese of Jinja leads the mass under the theme “Lord, Increase Our Faith.” Simultaneously, at the Anglican site, the service is led by dioceses from the eastern cluster, including Karamoja, Mbale, North Karamoja, Busoga, Sebie, and others.

This collaborative effort has resulted in a remarkable achievement, bringing together a choir of 400 individuals, the largest ever assembled at an Anglican event. The Most Reverend Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America and Chairman of the Council of Primates within the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) delivers the sermon of the day.

During his inspection of the venue for final preparations, the Archbishop expresses admiration for the efforts of the Anglican community in developing the site and ensuring it is well-prepared to accommodate all the guests. He specifically highlights the provision of ample shade to ensure everyone can sit comfortably and enjoy the proceedings.

While acknowledging the tragic deaths of the martyrs under the orders of the Kabaka of Buganda, the Church of Uganda, Archbishop Steven Kaziimba emphasized that during the commemoration of Martyrs day, the focus should not solely be on criticizing the kingdom. He highlights the historical significance of the kingdom, noting that it was under the reign of Kabaka Muteesa 1 that the kingdom initiated the arrival of missionaries to these lands, which played a pivotal role in spreading the gospel and bringing enlightenment and knowledge of the Lord to the area.

Kaziimba encourages the faithful not to overlook this important aspect of the kingdom’s history and urges them to use the occasion to foster spiritual growth and deepen their faith.

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