Namugongo Martyr’s Shrine is one of the most exceptional tourism attractions in Kampala situated in Wakiso district. Thousands of religious pilgrims, tourists gather here every 3rd of June In remembrance of the Uganda martyrs who were burnt on the kings’ order because of their faith in Christianity. Shrines were put in place where believers especially Catholics go to pray every year. Various religious tourists embark on their journeys several days before the martyr’s day on foot. Some of them come from Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and all Ugandan districts.
These were 24 catholic Uganda martyrs both men and young men, around 22 members were killed in between 1885 and 1887 by king of Buganda (King Mwanga), 13 members were burnt up to death at Namugongo. Twenty martyrs were also sanctified by Pope Benedict XV on 6th of June in 1920 and later blessed by Pope Paul on 18th October 1964.Again John Paul on 20th October 2002.
Whereas Pope Paul IV was paying attribute to the 22 Anglican martyrs during the canonization in his sermon he said “And we do not wish to forget “even the others who, belong to the Anglican faith .met death for Christ’s sake”. All these martyrs are honoured on 3rd of June every year.
Most of these of martyrs who were killed lived in the king’s palace while others were working as homesteads. People in Buganda kingdom used show loyalty to the king by selecting one of the most hardworking and well behaved boys to go and work for the king. This could show prestigious to the families that gave in their boys to work for the king.
During the year between 1877 to 1879, the Anglican and catholic missionaries had started spreading the word of God in the kings palace. Kabaka Mutesa 1, the father to King Mwanga invited the Christian missionaries in his letter dated 14th April 1875 that was published in London on 15th of November 1875.
The first martyr to be killed was Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe who was the king’s major and the leader of all Christians. He was commanded by the king to kill Bishop Hannington an Anglican missionary who entered Buganda kingdom from east in Busonga and he did not do it and also he had pleaded to the king to abandon homosexuality which the king did not support and he ordered for his murder.
Since then, king Mwanga became very angry with all Christians as they refused to obey to his sinful acts and they were persuading all other members in the kingdom to do the same. On 25TH may, 1886, king Mwanga ordered for all Christian believers to be brought to him, he passed on them the death penalty because they had disobeyed him. Between 20 to 22 martyrs were killed 26th may 1886 and 3rd June the same year.
The death of Uganda martyrs by King Mwanga in Buganda led to the construction of the Namugongo shrine in monument of the martyrs who were burnt to death by the king’s order. Christians normally gather here to pray for these people who gave in their lives for Christ’s sake.
Visiting Namugongo shrine will create appositive impact on you as you learn about these innocent Christian believers who sacrificed their lives for Jesus Christ.