This year, like in previous years, did thousands of foreign pilgrims stream into Uganda to experience Martyrs Day at the Namugongo Shrine. When King Kabaka Mwanga II had 45 Catholics and Anglicans killed over their beliefs back in 1885 and 1887, burning them alive, was the stage set for modern day Uganda, to turn tragedy into opportunity.
Canonized by Pope Paul did the 22 Catholic Ugandans rise to fame as the country’s first Saints and ever since, especially after the initial Namugongo Shrine was constructed, did the annual holiday attract the faithful from ever more countries.
Pilgrims from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Eastern Congo often take weeks to walk towards Namugongo and in particular Nigerian Catholics have made it a point to travel to Uganda for the annual commemoration.
It is understood that airlines and hotels are working to put packages on the market, in particular RwandAir and Serena Hotels, to offer year round pilgrimage tours. These will bring pilgrims from West Africa first to Rwanda for a visit to Kibeho, before traveling on to Uganda for a visit to the two shrines in Namugongo – the main one in Uganda – but also to the second shrine near Munyonyo.
This, when going on sale, will allow pilgrims to visit these shrines and places at any given time of the year, outside the main events held at the shrines in Kibeho, Munyonyo and Namugongo.
According to information received were tens of thousands of pilgrims on site in Namugongo yesterday, triggering a major security operation by the Uganda Police which kept the pilgrims safe.
Pope Francis during his visit last year to Uganda, also visited the shrine and celebrated mass there, further popularizing the location for Catholics from around the world to come to Uganda for their prayers.
More information is available about the event and related sites vis the Uganda Tourism Board site.