Luwum the fearless shepherd

Wednesday February 11 2015
luwum pic

The head of Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire at the time, Archbishop Luwum was slain on February 16, 1977

Kampala. Janani Jakaliya Luwum, the second Ugandan Archbishop of the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga Zaire (DR Congo), is one of the 20th Century martyrs in the Anglican Church.
Archbishop Luwum was born in 1924 to Eliya Okello in Mucwini near Kitgum Town. His father was one of the early converts to Christianity in northern Uganda. Okello went on to become a catechist in the Anglican Church
At a tender age of 10, Luwum started his formal education. He was a regular churchgoer because of his father’s involvement in the church. After primary school, he was admitted to Gulu High School. After he left school, because of shortage of money, he joined Boroboro Teacher Training College.
He showed leadership skills while still at college when he talked fellow students out of a strike while at Borobore College. Upon graduation from teaching college in 1941, he was posted to Puranga Primary School.
It was on January 6, l948, through the preaching of Yusto Otunno and his wife Josephine, members of the Revival ministry that Luwum became a convert to the Born Again (balokole) Movement.
After this conversion, Luwum spent a year with the revival movement and was involved personally in its struggle with the church. He was dismissed from one church school by the church authorities who accused him of spoiling the pupils with his message of ‘repentance’.
During that time, he was arrested with eight others and brought before the sub-chief of Mucwini, who charged them with disturbing the peace.
The following morning they were taken to Kitgum, the administrative centre and thrown in prison, tortured and given no food for two days.
The prison warders repeatedly asked them to denounce their faith but Luwum replied: ‘You are good people and beloved brothers. It is not you, but your master, Satan, who is using you to torture us and leave us to go hungry. We love you, and our master, Jesus Christ, loves you too.’
Luwum became a reverend of the Anglican Church in Uganda after joining Buwalasi Theological College. In 1949, he left his family under the care of Yusto Otunno to go and join the theological college as a lay reader. Almost a year later after joining the college, Luwum left Buwalasi in 1950 as a lay leader attached to St Philip’s Church in Gulu, where he also taught the catechist at the archdeaconry training centre.
Three years later Luwum returned to Buwalasi for a two-year training and he was ordained a deacon in December 1955, and a priest the following year.
After a year as a priest, he got a chance to go for further studies in Britain and the congregation of St Mary’s raised the required money to go to England for a one-year course at St Augustine’s College, Canterbury. He returned in l959 and was posted to the parish of Palwo in Lira.
For Luwum, Christ came first.But the gospel he proclaimed, one of total commitment to Christ fell on stony ground in the parish of Lira Palwo. The people came willingly to pray and the church was packed on Sunday mornings but Christianity was now labelled in many people’s minds as second class.
Luwum tried his best to encourage people to give their ‘first fruits’ to God but for the most part they remained unmoved. For three years, Luwum remained in Lira Palwo without seeing any obvious fruits of his labours.
He became vice-principal of Buwalasi Theological College in l962. But he never stayed there long as he had been given a bursary to study divinity at the London College of Divinity for two years.
He returned to Buwalasi as the principal, but that was the time when the college was closing as Bishop Tucker College had been chosen as the provincial college, and finances at the church’s disposal could not run two top-level training centres.
When the college finally closed, he was appointed provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda in September l966. But these were hard times for the church as it was split between tribal lines between the Baganda and non-Baganda following the appointment of Erica Sabitti as the new archbishop.
In his capacity as the provincial secretary, he was tasked to find a solution to the problems of the church at the time. He initiated the construction of the present archbishop’s house and provincial offices in Namirembe, Kampala and proposed a separate diocese of Kampala carved out of Namirembe.
Every 10 years the bishops of the Anglican Communion gather for the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury and London. In l968 all the Ugandan bishops went, and Luwum went too as one of the overseas consultants to the Archbishop of Canterbury. By now he was obviously a man marked for leadership.
When the diocese of Northern Uganda was divided to create the two dioceses of Northern Uganda, that’s Acholi and Lango and that of Madi and West Nile, Luwum was consecrated as the bishop of the newly-created diocese of Northern Uganda on January 25, l969 in Pece Stadium, in Gulu District.
After his election, Luwum said: ‘We feel it is a great honour and we are humbled because we know that the task facing the church in Northern Uganda is very challenging. None of us alone is sufficient for the task that lies ahead, but as we work together in God’s strength we can have confidence for the future….’

Good deeds

Luwum showed great care in the leprosy work in Gulu, holding thanksgiving services to those discharged from the hospital. He stayed in Gulu from 1969 until 1974 when he was appointed the Archbishop of the Province of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire (DR Congo).

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