Countries and cultures throughout the world celebrate dates, people, and ideas that have shaped the world they live in. For countries like Uganda, changes in culture have affected the nation and its inhabitants in many different ways.
Religiously, one of the most celebrated occasions in Uganda is their national Martyr’s Day. While it may seem like it would only affect the country, the people are the true carriers of culture and ideals. As people migrate and journey throughout the world, we find ourselves learning more about how places and people affect us wherever we are.
A sacrifice made
From 1885 to 1887, Charles Lwanga and his groups of companions were oppressed and condemned for their Roman Catholic religious stance. At the time, the current political struggle had found them to be a threat to their own stance, resulting in the deaths of a great many religious followers who would not renounce their faith.
Pope Paul VI later canonized their names amongst the martyrs, affirming the importance of their struggle and stance for their beliefs. Since then, June 3 has been a day dedicated to the memory of these martyrs who gave everything they had so that others might also believe. One of the largest martyr collectives in the world, this occasion sets Uganda’s celebration amongst the great historical notes. Since then, Uganda’s population has grown to over seventy-five percent Christian, most of who are of catholic belief.
A long journey home
Because of the powerful effect these martyrs had on the Ugandan religious heritage, many Ugandan natives undergo a pilgrimage back to their homeland from countries across the globe. From distant lands, these pilgrims navigate their way to the Namugongo Holy Shrine, which is where the 22 Catholic martyrs are remembered for their bravery and stand against tyrannical figures that struggled to oppress their beliefs. Throughout the nation, celebrations are held, but for most of the devout, the pilgrimage is of great importance.
While many native Ugandans will partake in the journey, not everyone is able to make the pilgrimage. Many Novenas are practiced in the days and moments leading up to the climactic celebration, and these can be practiced at participating dioceses. You may take the time to discuss your own localized celebration with your church, and also make efforts to contact fellow Ugandans to organize your own celebration.
For those that do make the journey, staying in contact during a pilgrimage is important for not only safety, but to enable those who could not make it to partake in the celebration. Those abroad can share the moments of celebration with friends and family throughout the world.
This June, we remember those who laid down their lives for what they believed was right. As a result, people throughout the world have the opportunity to practice their own religious beliefs without persecution. While making the pilgrimage is an important part of culture, it is not always a viable option for everyone. So, we do what we can to remember and celebrate the heritage of Uganda.
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**Photograph ”Uganda” by Hannah.Copeland under Creative Commons Attribution