Hundreds of Christians repented and got born again as the Anglican Church commemorated the Uganda martyrs who were killed 130 years ago for refusing to denounce Christianity.
The message of repentance and holiness dominated the sermon of the guest preacher from Nigeria Bishop Dr. Samuel Chukwudi Ezeofor at the Anglican martyrs' commemoration service at Nakiyanja at Namugongo in Wakiso district.
In line with Mathew 5:10, the service was organized by Namirembe diocese under the theme of "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The Nigerian Bishop challenged Christians to emulate the Uganda martyrs to live a life that pleases God.
"Many are Christians by name but not devoted to God. Be obedient to God. The Lord is coming back for a church without a spot and without a wrinkle. It is sin that creates spots," Dr. Ezeofor preached as thousands of believers braved the scorching sun to listen to his message.
The martyrs were murdered on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga in 1885 and 1886 for refusing to denounce Christianity.
A total number of 46 were killed; 22 of whom were Roman Catholics and 24 were Anglican Christians.
Citing the example of Uganda martyrs who chose death over denouncing Jesus, the guest preacher admonished Uganda Christians never to allow challenges and problems in life make them abandon God.
"Many Christians have denied their faith in order to get things like promotion at work and sponsorship. The martyrs we are remembering discovered the secret that it is better to die than to deny Jesus," he stated.
Tophas Kabanyoro, one of those who got born again, said, "My family has been pushing me to get saved for the last 10 years, but I always said it is not the right time. I am so happy because I have now become born again."
Joyce Ndagire, another pilgrim, said, "When the Bishop was preaching, he said we have to be faithful and pure. I have learnt that we have to be devoted God in all situations just like the martyrs."
The service was also attended by the South Sudan Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng Buland delegations of pilgrims from Nakuru in Kenya and Nigeria.
Bishop Deng thanked the Uganda government for the contribution to the liberation struggle of his country and for the freedom South Sudanese enjoy in Uganda.
A big number of business people made a killing in selling various products including food items to the pilgrims.
There were also fanfares like riding on the camels and dancing to music by the roadside. The congregation inside was entertained by various drama groups and church choirs.
After enduring walking a long distance of over 3kms from Kireka as the road had been blocked from motorists, and flexing with thousands of pilgrims who were struggling to enter the Catholic shrine, it was much easier to enter the Anglican shrine where the queue was not as long.
Some pilgrims could not withstand the scorching sun as they fainted but were given first aid by Red Cross and medical officers from the ministry of health.
The Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntangali appealed to believers to contribute to the shortfall of sh4.6b to complete the construction of the Martyrs’ Museum. Sh3.7b has been so far spent on the project.
The Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who was the chief guest, pledged that the Uganda government will work with the church to turn Namugongo and Munyonyo into major tourism destinations because of their historic significance.
"Namugongo has become a centre of heroism in Uganda. The courageous act of the martyrs changed the face of Christianity in Uganda and the rest of the world. Revolutions are usually caused by people of great resolve like the Uganda martyrs," Rugunda argued.
The premier also indicated that government would partner with all faith based organizations in the social-economic transformation of the country.
Quoting Mathew 5:14-16, Rugunda urged believers to "Let their light shine so that people may see their good deeds and glorify God."