Saturday, June 3, 2017

June 3 - The Martyrs of Uganda

Mutesa was king of Uganda and, although he remained committed to the traditional, tribal religion of his youth, it was only Mutesa who could allow Christian missionaries (and Muslim missionaries, as well) to enter Uganda and speak on behalf of their faith. In 1877 Mutesa began allowing missionaries to speak of their faith and spiritual allegiance in the presence of the royal court and before some small groups of citizens. Though Mutesa never converted either to Islam or Christianity, he did not interfere in any of the conversions of the citizens of Uganda. Mutesa allowed this largely because of his desire to be liked by the international, civil forces that supported both the Muslims and the Christians. That is to say, Mutesa allowed missionaries into Uganda because they came from the Middle East, France, and England for the most part, and Mutesa was interested in cooperating with these people. Though Mutesa had intended for the citizens of Uganda to receive very limited exposure to the religions of the missionaries, he could not stop them from spreading like wildfire once hearts had been kindled to their message. The Christian Gospel of love, peace, mercy, and grace took root and blossomed with incredible speed in the soil of Uganda. Then, Mutesa died.

Following Mutesa's funeral, his son Mwanga ascended to the throne of Uganda. Mwanga had found the Christian teachings interesting as a child--not interesting enough to convert but interesting enough to entertain long conversations with the missionaries--but found that indeed his crown weighed heavy upon his mind.He feared that the creeping colonization of foreign powers in Uganda that had started under Mutesa was significantly undermining the authority of the king in Uganda. When he spoke to Christians and heard reports of what they were doing and saying he became convinced that they represented a great challenge to the ambitions of the Ugandan state. At first, he tried to restrict the access of missionaries to the citizens but found this largely ineffective because so many of the Ugandans had claimed the Gospel for themselves and could disseminate it among themselves without the assistance of the missionaries. In other words, the spread of the Kingdom couldn't be stopped because it already rested in the hearts and minds of the people. So, Mwanga did the only thing he thought would work: he endeavored to remove the Christians from Uganda by spilling their blood upon the ground.

On the 3rd of June, in the year 1886, the climax of Mwanga's bloody campaign was reached when thirty-two young men were tied to stakes at Namugongo and burned to death because of their faith. In the days that followed this heinous act, even more Christians were burned, tortured, and impaled for their faith. Leading up to this time, Christians were killed at the insistence of Mwanga because their faith in a power higher than the throne threatened Mwanga and his convictions on what generated hope for Uganda's future--power, manipulation, and domination or a Gospel of mercy, grace, and love for enemies. When Mwanga's advisers (Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe for one) questioned his execution of James Hannington without ever giving James an opportunity to defend himself he became irate and had them martyred as well. All in all, forty-five martyrdoms were recorded but many more Ugandan Christians' martyrdoms went uncounted.In the end, of course, Mwanga's efforts had the opposite of the intended effect. Those who had not been converted by the Christians were profoundly touched by the sight of Christians walking to their death with hope-filled hearts and song-filled voices. Contrary to what Mwanga had hoped, the Kingdom could not be removed from Uganda because the Kingdom was not--and is not--of this world.

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