What you need to know:
- Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Vice President for Eastern, Ms Proscovia Salaam Musumba, has flagged off 122 pilgrims from St Balikuddembe Catholic Parish, Namwendwa, who are expected to walk for 154 Kms to Namugongo.
At least 36 pilgrims from various dioceses in Kenya arrived at the Busia border on Thursday on their way to Namugongo for the Martyrs Day celebrations slated for June 3.
The pilgrims, majority elderly women, are from the dioceses of Kisumu, Kwale, Machakos, Kisii, Vihiga, Nairobi, Eldoret and Homa Bay.
Anna Omollo, one of the pilgrims from Yala Parish in Kisumu diocese, said they started walking “over a week ago”, but suffered several challenges along the way, including some of their members falling sick.
“Most of the pilgrims who are falling sick and picking up injuries are the first-timers to trek to Namugongo, but I am optimistic that they should be able to get used to whatever challenges,” Ms Omollo said.
Unlike previous years where over 200 pilgrims from Kenya walked to Namugongo, this year, the numbers are so small due to economic hardships back home, according to Paul Olal, one of the pilgrims.
He said for one to walk, they must have money to buy food, water, refreshments and pay medical bills.
After crossing the border into Uganda, the Kenya pilgrims went to St Jude Catholic Church in Busia Town, where they were to have a rest and get some refreshments before embarking on the Namugongo journey through Lumino, Namayingo, Buswale, Nankoma, Mayuge, Jinja, Mbiko, Lugazi and are expected to arrive at the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine on June 1.
Jacklyn Atieno, another pilgrim, said upon reaching Namugongo, her first task will be to draw the “Holy water” which she expects to carry back home. “I have been told by my friends that the water drawn from Namugongo River is Holy water, so I want to fetch it and take it back to my home,” she said.
Alexander Wejuli, a Parishioner at St Jude Church, said they will give the pilgrims water to bathe, prepare for them food and allow them to rest as they prepare to embark on the journey to Namugongo.
Meanwhile, in Kamuli, the former District LCV chairperson, who is also the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Vice President for Eastern, Ms Proscovia Salaam Musumba, has flagged off 122 pilgrims from St Balikuddembe Catholic Parish, Namwendwa, who are expected to walk for 154 Kms to Namugongo.
Ms Musumba called upon the pilgrims to strengthen and grow their faith, pray to God to intercede and promote peaceful existence and for the country to use dignity of faith through martyrdom to support one another.
She reminded the pilgrims that they walk along with the Basoga pilgrims; St Gonza Gonzaga from Bugonza, Budini Parish in Kaliro District, and St Matia Mulumba Kalemba from Kyebando Parish in Mayuge District.
“This is an opportunity to showcase and display Busoga culture, but for us mainly to remind the President that Busoga is still waiting for the religious tourism circuit programme to refurbish and elevate our Martyrs Shrines in Busoga,” she said.
She added that Busoga is underutilising its potentials and resources and therefore challenged the government to invest in protecting, preserving, developing and promoting cultural heritages and religious tourism in Busoga by funding the development and upgrading its sites.
Mr Museveni, under his Presidential Initiative on Tourism, pledged to support the project and gave the Catholic Church an opportunity to develop these sites to International level.
Compiled by Philip Wafula, David Awori & Sam Caleb Opio