Friday, February 17, 2017Janani Luwum
Archbishop of Uganda, and Martyr
d. February 17, 1977
The Church in Uganda began with the deaths of martyrs (see Martyrs of Uganda and James Hannington and his Companions). Through much of the twentieth century, Uganda was a British protectorate, with independence coming in 1962. In 1971, the armed forces under General ID Amin took control of Uganda, and almost immediately began a policy of repression, arresting anyone suspected of not supporting him, including an expulsion of the Asian population from Uganda. Amin had zero toleration: a preacher who read over the radio a Psalm which mentioned Israel was shot for this in 1972.
Iin 1977, when the Church responded to many acts of unnecessary blood-letting with an appeal to the preciousness of life, the government responded with an early morning raid on the home of Archbishop Janani Luwum, ostensibly to search for hidden stores of weapons. The Archbishop called on President Amin to deliver a note of protest at the policies of arbitrary killings and the unexplained disappearances of many persons. Amin accused the Archbishop of treason, produced a document supposedly by former President Obote attesting his guilt, and had the Archbishop and two Cabinet members (both committed Christians) arrested and held for military trial. The three met briefly with four other prisoners who were awaiting execution, and then were sent away in a vehicle and not seen alive again by their friends.
The government story is that one of the prisoners tried to seize control of the vehicle and that the passengers were killed in the resulting wreck. The story believed by the Archbishop's supporters is that he refused to sign a confession, was beaten and otherwise abused, and finally shot. His body was placed in a sealed coffin and sent to his native village for burial there. However, the villagers opened the coffin and discovered the bullet holes.
The following June, about 25,000 Ugandans came to the capital to celebrate the centennial of the first preaching of the Gospel in their country, among the participants were many who had abandoned Christianity, but who had returned to the Faith.
Almighty God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before Thee blessed Janani, Archbishop and Martyr in Uganda, may, like him, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom he gave obedience, even to death, and by his sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.