Located in Kyando Village, Mayuge District, the shrine which sits on 220 acres, is believed to be the spot where Bishop James Hannington and 48 of his African helpers were murdered on October 29, 1885.
The Bishop Hannington Memorial Site, which is also believed to be the spot of the first and largest Christian martyrdom in Uganda, was unveiled last Monday as another tourist site in Busoga sub-region.
According to local authorities, Mayuge District stands to earn about Shs500m annually from religious tourism at the Bishop James Hannington shrine.
The LC5 chairman, Mr Umar Bongo, said: “It is a project we picked up as local government, joined hands with the church and liaised with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to develop. We hope to get Shs500m in revenue annually from the shrine if all goes on well.”
“And it is now no longer a Mayuge issue but a national issue. We have had functions at the shrine but from what I saw last Monday, this shrine is promising in terms of boosting our tourism programme,” Bongo said.
According to Bongo, several guests spent a night in the area and asked councillors to take them around the islands the following day.
“Kyando received good publicity and the locals, I am told, made a lot of money through the sale of items and other liturgical crafts,” he said.
Daudi Migereko, the chairman of Uganda Tourism Board, says government has been trying to mainstream religious tourism by identifying all sites that have something to do with religious tourism.
“So far, Namugongo has been the biggest and has given a big boost not only to religious tourism but to domestic tourism; followed by Janan Luwum site in Mucwini, Kitgum District and now The Bishop Hannington Day in Kyando,” he said.
Support for other sites
According to Migereko, Kyando previously lacked proper facilities and utilities, but government has since come in to give support.
President Museveni said the roads will be tarmacked to ensure smooth travel while electricity and water are already in place. He also promised to link the Church to the Ministry of Finance to see how best the rehabilitation of all religious sites can be done.
“The Shs7.8b needed for this project is not a lot of money and can be found,” the President said.
The Bishop Hannington shrine is also part of the Busoga Tourism Cluster or circuit which includes the Source of River Nile, Itanda Falls and Kagulu Hill (where the Whites reportedly entered Busoga - from Bunyoro).
It is also part of Mpumudde Hill, the recently commissioned Source of the Nile Bridge and Igenge Hill which is the current residence of the Kyabazinga (king) of Busoga.
What this means, therefore, is that a tourist can decide to visit Kyando (Bishop Hannington Shrine) and Budini in Kaliro District (St Gonzaga Gonza) for religious tourism, the Source of the Nile and Itanda Falls for leisure tourism (rafting) or Igenge and Kagulu Hills for cultural tourism.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga averred that the shrine is ripe for religious tourism and as that course is pursued, plans are underway to set up a cathedral with an amphitheatre, a seed farm to provide high quality planting materials and a school of theology.
Already, areas of touristic interest have been well mapped out. For example, tourists will find a fascinating story about the bishop’s brief stay in Kyando and the caves in which he slept.
The memorial site
According to local folklore, when the bishop together with his group of 48 helpers, entered Busoga in current Mayuge District, a territory that was under Chief Luba, one of Kabaka Mwanga’s collaborators, a message was sent to Kabaka Mwanga who out of panic immediately ordered the execution of the strangers.
Kabaka Mwanga’s fear was that Christianity was growing fast among his subjects and this, to him, became an increasingly great threat to his rule.
Today, a stone to mark and commemorate the point at which Bishop Hannington was murdered still stands at the end of the road that leads to the rocky Kyando hill where the bishop did most of his activities in the caves before his death.
Accommodation has been one of the major problems faced at Kyando, with pilgrims failing to get where to spend the night during each visit.
This, however, has been solved by the Speaker Kadaga who has constructed a Shs2 billion facility dubbed Century Hannington Resort Cottages.
Forty of these were last Monday launched by President Museveni and are expected to be ready within two months.
They will provide accommodation, decent food and internet to visiting pilgrims and according to Ms Kadaga, every Church of Uganda bishop has a room reserved for the night whenever he pays a visit to the shrine.
Free for bishops
“This is for you and each bishop has a room here whenever he visits Bishop Hannington shrine,” Kadaga told Bishop Stanley Ntagali after the commissioning.
Fred Obura, a Jinja-based tour guide, is excited by the Bishop Hannington Shrine which he says will boost other tourism sites across Busoga sub-region.
“Now that October 29 has been declared a public holiday, this means visitors to Bishop Hannington shrine will not leave Jinja before visiting the Source of the Nile Bridge and climbing Kagulu Hill,” he said.
He added: “This shrine will one way or the other directly impact on the rest of the tourist sites within the region.”