Christians have been challenged to refrain from harboring sectarianism and fighting for material wealth and rather uphold the legacy that the martyrs of faith embodied while they faced persecution.
The appeal was made in a sermon delivered by the Rt. Rev. Nathan Gasatura, dosage Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Butare in Rwanda who was guest preacher during Saturday’s celebrations of Martyrs’ Day in Namugongo.
Hundreds of believers of the Anglican faith gathered at the Nakiyanja martyrs’ shrine where ashes of 25 youthful Christians were buried after they were burnt alive by Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda in 1886.
Thirteen of these were Anglicans while 12 were Catholics who defied the King’s directive to denounce Christianity.
Saturday’s celebrations which were characterized by prayer, view worship and praise were a climax of days of pilgrimage from all parts of the country as well as intercession for individual needs.
Over 2 million people are estimated to have attended this year’s Martyrs Day in Namugongo.
“The heroic lives of the Uganda martyrs formed a bedrock for Christianity in Uganda and East Africa. While 95% of these martyrs were Baganda, price we should desist from looking at this day from a tribalistic view point,” Bishop Gasatura told faithfuls who braved the scorching sun to the end.
“If you are the kind that still holds tribalistic sentiments in you and yet you think of yourself as a Christian, I urge you to repent,” he told the congregation.
He said that Ugandans should be united by the blood of the martyred believers as a nation of God, further casting criticism on Christians who he said have done little to stop the rampant corruption and land wrangles in the country.
“The heroes of faith disregarded their lives by standing their ground to challenge the Kabaka without fear. The blood they shed should ignite faith, forgiveness and unity among you.”
The gruesome persecution, he said, inspired the East African Revival which later ministered the gospel of Jesus to Rwanda and DR Congo through the likes of Sharita, Nsibambi, Kigozi, Nagenda and Erica Sabiti.
Earlier, Bishop of Namirembe Diocese, Rt. Rev. Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira implored pilgrims to stand up for Christ inspite of the suffering if they are to realize their Christian value.
This year, over 1,000 pilgrims (Anglicans) walked on foot to Namugongo from the 25 different dioceses of the Province of Church of Uganda. The furthest pilgrimage being from Muhabura and Kigezi dioceses which make a distance of over 400 kilometers.
President Yoweri Museveni used Martyrs Day to rally Christians to fulfill their God given responsibility of looking after the natural environment especially in the wake of the climate change. It’s these changes, he said, that have caused long drought spells resulting into food shortages.
In the message delivered by Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi, Museveni said; “We need to encourage farmers that are capable to augment government efforts in irrigation. By doing so, we will have fulfilled God’s mandate.”
Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, His Grace, Stanley Ntagali noted that it is important that other historical sites where religious leaders like Bishop Hannington were killed to be developed.