What you need to know:
- After the anti-gay Bill was overwhelmingly voted in Parliament on March 21, both MPs and religious leaders kept using every opportunity to remind the President to sign it into law.
Leaders of the Anglican and Catholic churches in Uganda yesterday used the high profile Martyrs Day celebrations to repeat their resounding appreciation for President Museveni’s recent signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.
Their reaffirmation comes days after President Museveni rallied Ugandans to stand firm for what is right despite threats from America and its Western allies to withdraw aid to Uganda.
The President told ruling party MPs at a retreat that no amount of intimidation will shake the resolve of Uganda, noting that the “issue of homosexuality is a serious one that concerns the human race” and “that once you are fighting for the right cause, no one can defeat you”.
The bishops also spoke out against rising incidents of gun violence, and preached about the Christian virtues behind the Biblical teaching of one man, one wife.
Thousands of the faithful who congregated at the Catholic Shrine and Anglican Site in Namugongo, Wakiso District, greeted these teachings with thunderous cheers.
At the Catholic Shrine, the celebrations were held under the theme, “Lord increase our faith,” with Jinja Catholic Diocese leading the Mass this year.
Bishop Charles Martin Wamika, the main celebrant emphasised, the need for being serious and infectious with one’s faith, exhorting fellow Catholics to take life’s challenges with perseverance and to always remain strong.
The bishop sent the crowd roaring with laughter when he chided some Catholic men for having four wives instead of one as the Bible teaches.
“So, you Catholic men who are here who have four women, we are giving you four years. Drop one each year, until you remain with one,” Bishop Wamika said.
Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere of Kampala Catholic archdiocese urged his flock to grow more in faith, following the extraordinary example of the Uganda Martyrs who laid down their very lives for faith.
Mass at the shrine started at 9.30 am and ended at half past noon.
Speeches followed with representations from top government officials, including ministers and MPs, and foreign dignitaries.
Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja read President Museveni’s speech to the pilgrims.
“The spirit of sacrifice is important for personal growth, national development and to keep the country in godliness,” President Museveni said.
The President urged Christians to continue emulating the martyrs and promised to ensure continued peace and stability in the country as a way of respecting human rights.
Bishop Joseph Antony Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese, who doubles as the chairperson of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, condemned the recent increase in gun violence. He asked the government to impose strict measures on gun ownership to individuals and private security firms.
Busoga Kyabazinga [king] William Gabula Nadiope IV also urged Christians to follow the example of the Uganda Martyrs so that their sacrifice does not end up in vain.
At the Anglican Site, celebrations were held under the theme, “United for service and growth.”
Rev Foley Beach from the Anglican Church of America was the guest preacher. He applauded the Church and Uganda for sticking to the word of
God and resisting acts that undermine Biblical teachings and values.
“The Church has been invaded in so many ways. I commend the Church of Uganda for not allowing to be compromised by the temptations of the world. Don’t allow the devil to tempt us and lose faith,” he said, adding, “So leaders, it is not about us, it is about them; the people of God. Prepare people to do ministry everywhere,” he preached.
Rev Beach appeared to have been indirectly referencing the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, which President Museveni assented to on May 26.
The law, among others, prescribes the death sentence for persons found guilty of committing aggravated homosexuality, life imprisonment and heavy fines for other offences.
In what is believed to be the first retaliatory reaction to the new and tougher anti-homosexuality law, Parliament Speaker Anita Among has had her visa withdrawn by the United States government. The US, European Union, World Bank and Britain have denounced the law and variously threatened to withhold critical foreign financial assistance, impose travel bans and economic sanctions against Uganda.
After the Bill was overwhelmingly voted in Parliament on March 21, both MPs and religious leaders kept using every opportunity to remind the President to sign it into law, observing that Uganda is a God-fearing nation which must resist the “mortal sin same sex relationships.”
A small collection of pro-gay activists have since petitioned the Constitutional Court on grounds that the law contravenes Uganda’s Constitution and violates certain human rights.
Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Most Rev Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu, urged Christians to open their hearts to the word of God.
“When you hear God’s word, don’t harden your hearts,” Rev Kaziimba said.
The retiring Bishop of Namirembe Diocese, Rev Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira, appreciated efforts from those who contributed to the construction of the brand new multi-billion amphitheatre at the Anglican Site.
The officer-in-charge of the Namugongo Anglican Site, Rev Esau Bbosa, also requested Archbishop Kaziimba to ask government to do something about individuals who have encroached upon part of the church land in Namugongo.
“The pilgrims are increasing and we need to expand,” Rev Bbosa said.
This year’s celebrations were organised by the Eastern Cluster of 10 Anglican dioceses led by the Bishop of Bukedi Diocese, Rev Samuel George Bogere.
The record number of pilgrims attending this year’s celebrations made for an uplifting sight following the relatively smaller crowds last year on account of Covid-19 restrictions.
An estimated three million pilgrims, according to organisers, attended the celebrations at the two shrines.
Compiled by Esther Oluka, Damali Mukhaye, Jane Nafula, Priscilla Maloba & Peter Sserugo.