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Pope gives youth magic tablet for their problems

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th November 2015 10:27 PM

Winnie Nansumba was born with HIV. Today, she is 24 years old.

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Winnie Nansumba was born with HIV. Today, she is 24 years old.

By Carol Natukunda and John Semakula

Winnie Nansumba was born with HIV. Today, she is 24 years old.

A graduate of Ndejje University, Nansumba told her moving story to hundreds of youth who had gathered at Kololo stadium to meet Pope Francis.

Later, the Pope, who appeared emotional, listening to her story, laid his hands on her head and prayed for her.

Nansumba narrated how she lost her parents to the epidemic at much younger age.

“I was barely seven years old,” she stated in a matter of fact tone.

In 1997, she was enrolled at Mildmay Uganda, a center that is dedicated to the rehabilitation for people with living with HIV associated brain injury.

“I was given Septrine. However four years later, I developed malaria and measles,” she narrated, “During that time drugs were expensive, but thank God that I was able to continue with medication.”

Nansumba revealed that the words of the late music icon Philly Bongole Lutaaya are largely what would turn her into the young woman that she is today.

Lutaaya is considered a national hero for being the very first prominent Ugandan to openly declare he was HIV positive in the 1980s.

“Lutaaya said lets come together and fight HIV/AIDS.  He became my role model. I knew I would use his story tin inspire hope,” said Nansumba.

She challenged her fellow youth to know their HIV status and take charge of their lives.

“We must respect our lives and that of others. Keep away from Sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Let’s work together regardless of our status,” said Nansumba

At the same function, Emmanuel Odokonyero, a graduate from Gulu University gripped the Pope and the audience when he shared his experience of having been in abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

Pope Francis prays for Winnie Nansumba, an HIV positive youth at Kololo Airstrip. PHOTO: Eddie Ssejjoba

“I was at Lachor Seminary when the rebels took us into captivity. Some of my friends were murdered.

“At one point, after four months of captivity, I pleaded with them to kill me.”

As luck would have it, Odokonyero was later able to escape.

“My heart if full of sorrow for my friends who died in captivity and those still in captivity. To those who tortured us, I am glad my heart found peace…they are forgiven,” Odokonyero said.

That incident would be a turning point in his life.

“I did not give up on life. I am a graduate of business administration from Gulu University”

Pope Francis after listening to his story told Odokonyero to take heart, before praying for him.

The pope’s message

The Pope was invited to the podium to address the youth by the chairman of the Lay Apostolate Commission (LAC), Rt. Rev. Paul Ssemogerere. The Commission constitutes youth and the adults in the Catholic Church.

Ssemogerere told the Pontiff that the youth in Uganda are very active and enthusiastic but that they have got several challenges which are preventing them from effectively participating in Church activities’. He cited the challenges to include moral decay, cohabitation, religious pluralism, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism and drugs.

Pope Francis’ message to the youth was a direct response to the two testimonies.

He packaged his address into three themes which he said would be important for the youth to apply whenever facing difficulties in life like Nansumba and Odokonyero.

The three points were prayer, transforming negatives into positives and fighting relentlessly to overcome difficulties.

But the Pontiff put more emphasis on prayer, advising youth never to lose desire to pray because Jesus who saved man from evil is always watching and ready to help.

“Jesus experienced the negatives in life like many of us. He was insulted, assaulted, rejected and murdered. But until he continued praying even for those who later murdered him,” he said.   

The Pope noted that Emanuel managed to escape from the LRA’s captivity because he remained courageous; prayed to be released and kept fighting until the end.   

“Jesus can transform life that is hopeless into a life of services for others the way he did for Emanuel and Winnie. If you want Jesus to change your life ask him through prayer,” the Pope said. 

Pomp at Kololo

Pope Francis had arrived at Kololo airstrip at exactly 3:13pm amidst elation from thousands of youth who had been waiting for him as early as 6:00am. Most of them waved the Uganda flag, chanting, “We love you Pope.” The nuns too jumped and screamed in joy.

Earlier, the youth had followed the mass at Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine that was being telecast live on giant screens.

Different Catholic based youth groups and students entertained guests as they waited patiently for the Pontiff to arrive. At least by 11:00 am all the seats at the pavilion had been occupied. 

Like it is on most of the public functions in the city, food vendors did not miss the chance to cash in. The food items on sale included roast meat and refreshments.

The youth meeting was attended by notables like State Minister for Youth Evelyn Anite, and the permanent Secretary of the Gender Ministry, Pius Bigirimana.


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