Martyr’s Day – Uganda’s premier event for pilgrimage tourism


(Posted 02nd June 2013)

They came by air, they came by bus, they came by car and they came by foot, in their thousands, to attend the annual Martyr’s Day celebrations at the Namugongo Shrine outside the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

As every year, Catholic faithful with a close affinity to the celebration of the Ugandan Martyr’s, who were made Saints of the Church by Pope Paul VI during his visit to the country in October 1964, come from all over Africa and in fact around the world to Uganda to pray and pay tribute to their favourite saints. Hundreds of them in fact walk to the venue, from within Uganda and as far as Tanzania, the journey often taking weeks to complete.

Visitor numbers from abroad are swelling year after year as religious pilgrimages have been turned into religiously motivated travels by the marketers of the Uganda Tourism Board, and the private sector. Such tours are now a growing market segment which originally sprang from the Christian’s pilgrimages to Rome, and to the Holy Land, the Hindu pilgrimages across India and the Islamic duty to attend Haj or perform Umrah visits to Mecca and Medina. In past days, few would know of the Ugandan martyrs who got burned alive on the 03rd of June 1886, but with the onset of the new media, the social media, the instant global news business and the need to diversify the tourism attractions beyond the gorillas, it was only a matter of time before this event had become a major attraction to showcase to visitors.

This Monday will be a public holiday in Uganda, celebrated ever since Pope Paul VI’s proclamation of sainthood for the 22 Catholics among the victims of Kabaka Mwanga II. For those from abroad, it is a warm welcome from us all and enjoy your time in the Pearl of Africa.