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This year, Nebbi Catholic Diocese animated the liturgy at Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine under the theme “But as for me and My Household, We Shall Serve the Lord,” taken from Joshua 24:15. The commemoration of Uganda Martyrs Day is held annually on 3rd June in memory of a group of 22 Catholic and 23 Anglican converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda. The converts were executed on the orders of the Kabaka (King) Mwanga between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887.

By 6:00 a.m, all spaces inside the shrines were full, yet more pilgrims continued to arrive, forming long queues at every entrance point. Before the event, the shrine had been expanded, with more spaces created in the wooded areas behind the central pavilion. However, every available space, whether green or concrete, was already occupied by morning.

President Museveni attended the Uganda Martyrs’ Day celebrations in person at the Catholic Shrine, four years after being absent. In 2020 and 2021, there were no physical celebrations as the country was under lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in 2022 and 2023 when the country was fully opened up, the head of State, who had for a long time been a regular guest of honour, did not attend the celebrations.

President Museveni was the Chief Guest at the Catholic shrine arrived with the First Lady Janet Museveni while Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among represented the Present at the Anglican Site.

In his speech, President Museveni commended Ugandans for reaching the day after having previously gone through many problems. The President tasked clerics to shepherd their flock into money economy, saying having faithful bet poor Christians is a bad idea. The spiritual nourishment to qualify for heaven but work hard to have means to meet their physical needs like shelter, food, clothing, education and health, while on earth.

President Museveni also said Uganda is a land of martyrs and actors fighting the country and it’s leaders over the Anti-Homosexuality Act will fail.

Every year, Christians in Uganda and beyond flock to Namugongo to pay homage to 45 young converts who were killed between 1885 and 1887 on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga. Of these, 22 were Catholic converts and were canonized as saints. The 22 martyrs became the first saints from sub-Saharan Africa.

This year’s celebrations were significant because they marked the 60th anniversary of the Uganda Martyrs.

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