Uganda Martyrs Namugongo is one of the largest Christian pilgrimage destinations in Africa and is the most attractive place in Uganda where millions of people come and gather every 3rd June annually. Crowds of people have been estimated in hundreds of thousands in the same year visiting this place from all over the world. 22 martyrs and saints were killed between 1885 to 1887 by the King of Buganda Kabaka Mwanga II. People come to celebrate this day because of these 45 pillars who were killed in from here because of their faith. The Uganda martyrs belonged to only two religious groups, of which 23 were Anglicans and 22 Catholics that had converted to Christianity after disobeying the Kabaka’s traditional beliefs.
Uganda Martyrs Namugongo is located in Kira Municipality, Wakiso district in central Uganda approximately 15 kilometers by road in the northeast of Kampala City. The name Namugongo was brought up from “omugongo” which means “back”. Namugongo shrine was first acknowledged by Joshua Serufuka Zake in 1884 and by that time he was still the Sabaddu of Kira sub-country and he had to construct a structure for prayers. The parish was again founded by the Mill hill missionary in 1935 and later in 1967 the church was built and it was opened on 3rd June 1975. It accommodates 1,000 seats for Catholics but before, it represented 22 pillars and these were Catholics and 23 protests. It was a place of execution for anyone who abandoned the king’s law such as the disloyal and rebellious who were tortured in this place. This day is was recognized on the calendar to become a national holiday yearly.
The killing of the Uganda Martyrs began between 1885 to 1887 by Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda, who had to first kill their Christian leader Joseph Mukasa Balikudde. He was killed because he had pleaded with the king not to kill Bishop James Hannington an Anglican missionary who had made an attempt to enter Buganda from the east. Joseph Mukasa Balikudembe was beheaded and he was burnt at the swamp near Kampala Centre. The killing continued at Namugongo by Kabaka Mwanga, when he ordered the killing of these people through burning them namely. Some of these who were killed include Dionysia Ssebuggwawo, Pontian Ngondwe, Andrew Kaggwa, Atanasio Bazzekuketa, Joseph Mukasa, Kalooli Lwanga, Martia Mulumba, Gonzaga Gonza, Kabuki Ambrosio, Mbwa Eriya, Gyaviira, Muganga, Kizza Fredrick, Kwabafu, Lwanga Karoli, Muwanga Daudi and many others.
The blood of these Uganda martyrs was proved to be a seed of faith and the 22 catholic martyrs were declared blessed by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and later in 1969 pope Paul VI beatified the 22 catholic martyrs during the Vatican II conference. However, the Uganda martyrs are now conceded by the universal church as being worthy to be honoured as Saints. All this historical information has impressed millions of people to come and know what truly took place at Namugongo during those ancient years. Some come by foot moreover from our neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo and also to far regions of the country like those who live northern part of Uganda come by foot for such long distances. Other races in the world travel to be part of the event. Uganda is truly a blessed country to host a day where millions of people gather from annually on every 3rd June. This has become a remembrance day to both Catholics and the protests because of the martyred people who gave in their lives for their faith.
The pilgrimage to Namugongo means a lot to the residents than just remembering the martyrs. The event collects people from every region of the country and many in neighbouring countries such Rwanda, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya and others from different races of the world to come and be part of the event in order to lift up their faith to God. The event is also a big economic activity where traders thrive a lot. Ugandan businessmen and women use the event as an avenue to make money by selling all kinds of products to the pilgrims. The number of items sold are beverages, soft drinks, and eats. All home accessories can be bought in here and you may think that the traders are not knowing the event that is taking place within the area. To those who prepare early enough for this day, it seems to be a market day to them. The whole place can be surrounded by entertainers who are also marketing some products to the people and some who just come to enjoy the day where musical instruments of the popular local artists.
When you reach here you will be able to see where these pillars were burnt or killed from by Kabaka Mwanga and also to know about the history of the place where you will find good guides with fluent English who can guide you in the entire shrine.
About the security.
During the event, the government of Uganda provides tight security from Uganda police within the area on every corner of the shrine’s fence and also to the entrance doors, but be aware of the thieves and be extremely careful because in such large occasions robbers can’t miss out in such big number of people.