Daily Reading for June 3 • The Martyrs of Uganda
On Nov. 15 1885, Mukasa became the first Catholic martyr, when he was beheaded at Nakivubo. Between December of 1885 and May of 1886 many more converts were wantonly murdered. Mwanga precipitated a showdown in May by ordering the converts to choose between their new faith, and complete obedience to his orders. Those unwilling to renounce their new faith would be subject to death. Courageously, the neophytes chose their faith. The execution of twenty-six Christians at Namugongo on June 3, 1886 was the climax of the campaign against the converts. The last person killed in this crusade was Jean-Marie Muzeeyi, who was beheaded at Mengo on Jan 27, 1887. The list of forty-five known Catholic and Protestant martyrs includes only those who could be formally accounted for; many more murders went unreported and without a record.
In his efforts to curb the Christian influence and try to regain the traditional and customary powers and authorities over his subjects, Mwanga was adding more chaos to an already chaotic situation. In the north Kabarega (the king of Bunyoro Kitara, a traditional arch enemy of Buganda) was raging, . . . Further south it was reported that the Germans were annexing territories in the regions of the present Tanzania, and Mwanga was caught in a threatening position. His suspicion of the missionaries was therefore real. Buganda also was experiencing internal strife; the Moslems were plotting to overthrow him and replace him with a Moslem prince. The political upheavals combined with religious instability constrained the country’s moral stamina. The kingdom was thrown into turmoil; Moslems fighting Christians, traditionalists plotting against all creeds, untimely alliances concocted to survive against a common foe and later unceremoniously discarded. The kingdom broke into civil strife, during which Mwanga was briefly deposed, although he was able to regain his throne later.
Rather than deter the growth of Christianity, the martyrdom of these early believers seems to have sparked its growth instead. As has been observed in many other instances, the blood of the martyrs proved to be the seed of faith. Christianity (in its various flavours) is now the dominant faith in Buganda and Uganda as a whole.
From “The Christian Martyrs of Uganda” at http://www.buganda.com/martyrs.htm.