Annual Martyrs Day Celebrations Cancelled Citing Corona Fears
Challenges of COVID-19 and social gatherings
The Catholic Church has cancelled the annual Martyrs Day celebrations at Namugongo in Uganda which falls on June 3, citing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic challenges.
According to a letter dated April 29, 2020, signed by Rt. Rev. Joseph Antony Zziwa, the Chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), an umbrella body of all Bishops in Uganda, the Masaka Diocese which was supposed to lead the celebration will not be in a position to organize the 2020 Namugongo Martyrs Day Celebrations due to restrictions imposed by the government to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
“The Bishop of Masaka Diocese, Rt. Rev. Serverus Jjumba, has officially informed the Uganda Episcopal Conference that his diocese will not be in a position to organize the 2020 Namugongo Martyrs Day Celebrations,” Bishop Zziwa of Kiyinda Mityana said.
The Uganda Martyrs were executed on the orders of Mwanga II, the kabaka (the king) of Buganda for practicing their faith on June 3, 1886. They were a group of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now part of Uganda. The deaths took place at a time when there was a 3-way religious struggle for political influence at the Buganda royal court. The episode also occurred against the backdrop of the “Scramble for Africa” – the invasion, occupation, division, colonization, and annexation of African territory by European powers.
The location of these executions has since become a magnet which pilgrims remember every June 3 making the journey from as far away as Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as well as others traveling mainly from Nigeria in West Africa, Europe, the USA, and Canada. Around 3 million pilgrims participated in this journey in 2019.
Pope Francis visited Uganda from November 27-29, 2015. This was the third Papal visit since Pope Paul VI’s visit in 1969 and Pope John Paul’s visit in 1993.