By Francis Kagolo
Christians preparing to attend Martyrs’ Day celebrations at Namugongo have been urged to be security-cautious and carry small luggage that can be checked easily.
The call was made by Bishop John Muhanguzi of North-Ankole diocese, the organisers of this year’s celebrations.
He also urged well-wishers to contribute funds towards the function, which is budgeted to cost over sh80m.
Speaking to New Vision at the Namirembe Resource Centre in Kampala, Muhanguzi said they expect between 5,000 and 10,000 people to attend the celebrations at the Anglican shrine.
“We are giving the site a face-lift by repainting buildings, repairing the road and re-thatching the two huts where the martyrs were executed from. This is a very expensive exercise but worth doing,” he said.
Every year, thousands of Christians trek to Namugongo to ask for the intercession of the 45 Protestant and Catholic martyrs, who were killed on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II in 1886, after they refused to renounce their faith.
The 22 Catholic martyrs were beatified by Pope Benedict XV on June 6, 1920 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 16, 1964.
Martyrs Day is the biggest event that attracts thousands of people to Uganda from all over the world. This year, over 1.6 million pilgrims are expected to visit both the Catholic and Anglican shrines.
Hundreds have already set up camp. Cognisant of Monday’s suspected bomb attack in Nairobi which left 33 people injured, Muhanguzi implored pilgrims to be aware of possible terror attacks and co-operate with the Police in fighting crime at the site.
The retired bishop of North Kigezi diocese, Dr. Edward Muhima, will deliver the day’s sermon as the guest preacher at the celebrations under the theme: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”
At the Basilica, different congregations will have mass for their communities ahead of martyrs’ day celebrations.