Multitudes of Christians on Saturday attended the annual Martyrs Day celebrations in Namugongo where 25 Christians were killed and buried at the orders of Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda on June 3, prescription 1886.
The day has since become the most anticipated event on the Ugandan calendar which attracts millions of pilgrims from Uganda and beyond.
At the Nakiyanja Anglican shrine, prayers were led by the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Stanley Ntagali and also attended by Bishop Nathan Gasatura from the Rwandan Diocese of Butare and Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi.
As prayers proceeded, some of the pilgrims could be seen queueing up at the well to collect water to carry back home.
This is a significant aspect of the pilgrimage since it is believed that Mukajanga (who executed martyrs) and his aides descended to the well to wash their killing tools and cleanse their bodies.
In the same way, Christians believe that this water possesses healing power.
“I don’t take this water for granted. Sometimes ourselves or the people we are close to fall sick. With faith and prayer, i know that this water will heal them,” Harriet Namono a resident of Kibuli told ChimpReports in an interview. She said she makes the pilgrimage every year.
“It is important for me to come here because these people (Martyrs) exhibited extreme courage and devotional to die for their faith. Not everyone would withstand being butchered or burnt to death,” she added.
Namono told us she was interceding for the education of her young kids and God’s provision.
ChimpReports caught up with other pilgrims to understand what inspired them to journey to Namugongo and why the Martyrs Day is significant to them.
Samson Kawuki, 70 told us this year was his second pilgrimage whose purpose was to celebrate the Uganda martyrs.
Asked about his prayer requests, Kawuki said; “I came to particularly pray for my country. As you know, Uganda has witnessed a long drought and I also pray for peace.”
In the small church where the ashes of the 25 martyrs (Anglicans and Catholics) were buried after being burnt, pilgrims knelt and prayed silently while others sat meditating.
It is said that Tofero Kisosonkole who was a Prime Minister in the reign of the young Kabaka, Daudi Chwa collected the ashes and buried them. A church was then set up on the burial grounds in 1935 to protect this site of historic significance.
The newly constructed museum that shelters the church was equally busy with activity as Christians observed the statues that depict events as they transpired.
Dison Kalanzi, an S.6 student of Mengo S.S says that by choosing to die for their God, the martyrs set an outstanding example for Ugandans. This was his seventh pilgrimage. He particularly celebrates Gonzaga and Balikudembe who faced the most brutal death by amputation.
“For me, i have learnt through what the martyrs went through that material things are not the most important thing. And I think that the love of money is the reason people choose to steal public funds,” he told ChimpReports.
Today, he prayed for a Uganda that is transformed and stable, where people are not tortured. He challenges the youths to have ideals they stand for the same way martyrs stood for their faith.