NAMUGONGO MARTYRS SHRINE STAYS EMPTY OF PILGRIMS THIS YEAR DUE TO #COVID19
(Posted 03rd June 2020)
The number of pilgrims coming to the Namugongo Shrine outside Kampala has over the years risen in leaps and bounds.
From across Easter Africa did thousands of people walk, often for hundreds of kilometres – bracing the scorching sun as well as torrential rains – to attend the annual celebrations held every 03rd of June, making Martyrs Day the biggest religious tourism event in the region.
The Uganda Martyrs Trail, which was established a few years ago, is Uganda’s principal faith-based tourism product that takes visitors in normal years through different places where the first Christian missionaries passed and preached from, and where some of the Uganda Martyrs were killed before their bodies were taken to be burnt at Namugongo.
The death of these martyrs has always been significant in the hearts of Christians who celebrate the lives of the martyrs on the 03rd of June of every year – a day the republic of Uganda calls Uganda Martyrs’ Day and has for decades been a public holiday. Their remembrance was amplified when the Catholic Church of Rome beatified the martyrs of its faith in 1920 and is celebrated every year in remembrance of 45 young men (recorded) both Anglicans and Catholics who were killed on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then King of the Buganda Kingdom in Central Uganda, for refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ or Christianity.
Crowd control did pose challenges to the organizers as numbers grew into the million range and additional facilities and logistics like first aid services needed to be put into place to cater for all those cramming through the gates.
This year though, given lockdown and curfews across East Africa, and the requirements for social distancing, were the processions of pilgrims on the roadsides and along Uganda’s highways bare of the faithful and while mass will be celebrated at Namugongo Shrine, will no visitors be allowed into the compound to prevent any possible spread of the viral disease.
It is understood that only a very small number of invited guests will be allowed to enter and participate in the event, which will be low key though some television broadcasts are expected during the day from the venue.
Happy Martyrs Day to all Ugandans.