Martyrs Day: How preparations are shaping up at shrines

Workers mow grass and sweep pavements at the Uganda Martyrs Catholic Shrine in Namugongo, Wakiso District, May 16, 2022. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The celebrations will take place after a two-year absence of pilgrims due to Covid-19.

This year, pilgrims have been allowed to grace the Martyrs Day celebrations at the two main hosting venues, Namugongo Martyrs Catholic Shrine and the Anglican Uganda Martyrs Museum. The celebrations will take place on June 3. 

Preparations are already underway at the two respective venues. At Namugongo Martyrs Catholic Shrine,  we found maintenance work being carried out with a group of men slashing grass and trimming branches of overgrown trees. 

Rev Fr Vincent Lubega, the Namugongo Catholic Parish priest, last week said they were preparing early before the pilgrims arrive.

Yesterday, one male worker at the Catholic Shrine told Daily Monitor  that they will continue doing such upkeep until the main celebrations take place. 

Alongside other workers, they will be expected to scrub filth from any of the shrine’s surroundings, including pavilions and the Martyrs Bridge [situated within the pond]. 

On whether any kind of painting will be done within the Shrine following a two-year absence of pilgrims due to Covid-19, the worker responded that this might not be required since the place is still intact. 

“This place is always kept proper and neat because visitors frequently come here [at the shrine] for other different reasons, including to hold personal prayer sessions as well as to tour the vicinity,” the worker said.

Meanwhile, Mr Samuel Apedel, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation public relations manager, said they are working with the Shrine’s administration to ensure enough water is available for the pilgrims. 

Water is significant for drinking, bathing and washing clothes during the celebrations. 

Chlorine will also be placed inside the Shrine’s pond, also known as the Uganda Martyrs Lake, with the intention of disinfecting bacteria, while any floating matter will be removed to keep the water clear and clean. 

Fr Lubega said the intention of this pond water is specifically for religious rituals and not for drinking.  
Pilgrims will start arriving at the Shrine from May 20 with more than three million people expected to attend the main event. 

Uganda Martyrs Museum

At the Anglican Uganda Martyrs Museum, which is only a few kilometers away from the Catholic Shrine, work is ongoing to complete an amphitheater, which will accommodate large number of pilgrims in the near future.

Once completed at the end of December this year, this amphitheater will be circular in design with rows of seats, a very important person (VIP) section and terraces, among other unique facilities. It will be able to accommodate about 20,000 people. The facility is estimated to cost Shs13 billion. 

Due to the ongoing construction, this year’s celebrations at the Anglican site will take place at the Museum’s field, which is opposite the amphitheater. 

Mr Enock Rukundo, the Uganda Martyrs Museum administrator, said the field will host about 10,000 people. 

Amid existing Covid-19 pandemic scare, the administrators at the two respective Shrines said they are organising enough facilities to prevent any related disease outbreaks. Some of such facilities include water cans, disinfectants, and soap. 

There will also be designated medical camps with a team of health experts expected to address any matters pertaining health of the pilgrims. 

This year's themes

Ankole Diocese will lead this year’s celebrations at the Anglican Shrine with the day marked under the theme, ‘Hope beyond affliction’ while Fort Portal Diocese will preside over the prayers at the Catholic Shrine under the theme, ‘Baptised and sent to witness Christ with love and hope.’
 

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