Uganda Martyrs

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Charles Lwanga
and Companions
Karoli Lwanga and his followers.jpg
Died 1885 - 1887,Uganda
Martyred by Mwanga II
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion


by Pope Benedict XV

18 October 1964

by Pope Paul VI
Major shrine Basilica Church of the Uganda Martyrs, Namugongo
Feast 3 June
Notable martyrs Charles Lwanga
Andrew Kaggwa

The Uganda Martyrs are recognised in Christian churches as converts to the faith who were executed in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now part of Uganda. In particular, they refused to offer sacrifices to the traditional gods, and resisted (homosexual) sexual advances from King Mwanga II.[1] The Church Missionary Society used the deaths to enlist wider public support for the British acquisition of Uganda into the Empire[2]

Charles Lwanga and Companions[edit]

Saint Charles (Carl) Lwanga and his companions, the so-called "Martyrs of Uganda", were a group of Christians (both Roman Catholics and Anglicans) who were executed on the orders of Mwanga II, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda, between 1885 and 1887.[3] These deaths were part of a three-way religious struggle for political control of the Buganda royal court. In 1877, the Church Missionary Society in London had sent Protestant missionaries to the court, followed two years later by the French Catholic White Fathers. These two competed with each other and the Zanzibar-based Muslim traders for converts and influence. By the mid-1880s, many members of the Buganda court had converted and become proxies for the religious and nationalist conflict being played out in the court. Kabaka Mwanga II, upon his ascent to the throne, attempted to destroy the foreign influences he felt threatened the Buganda state, and was concerned at the increasing role of priests and missionaries.[4] Anglican James Hannington, the Protomartyr, had been dispatched to be the bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, but he was executed with his companions before they could enter Buganda.

Twenty-two of the martyrs were Roman Catholics and were canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 18, 1964. Although the Anglicans were not canonized in the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope did mention them.[5] Their feast day is June 3. They were:[6]

  1. Achileo Kiwanuka
  2. Adolphus Ludigo-Mukasa
  3. Ambrosius Kibuuka
  4. Anatoli Kiriggwajjo
  5. Andrew Kaggwa
  6. Antanansio Bazzekuketta
  7. Bruno Sserunkuuma
  8. Charles Lwanga
  9. Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa
  10. Gonzaga Gonza
  11. Gyavira Musoke
  12. James Buuzaabalyaawo
  13. John Maria Muzeeyi
  14. Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe
  15. Kizito
  16. Lukka Baanabakintu
  17. Matiya Mulumba
  18. Mbaga Tuzinde
  19. Mugagga Lubowa
  20. Mukasa Kiriwawanvu
  21. Nowa Mawaggali
  22. Ponsiano Ngondwe

The Ugandan Martyrs were featured in the film Millions.

The two martyrs of Paimol[edit]

Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa
Born c.1900 (Daudi); 1906 (Jildo)
Died October 18, 1918,Paimol, Uganda
Means of martyrdom pierced with spears
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church

October 20, 2002

by Pope John Paul II
Feast October 18

The martyrs, Blessed Daudi Okelo and Blessed Jildo Irwa, were two young catechists from Uganda. They belonged to the Acholi tribe, a subdivision of the large Luo group. They lived and were martyred in the years immediately following the foundation of the mission of Kitgum by the Comboni Missionaries in 1915.[7]

Archbishop Janani Luwum[edit]

When commemorating the martyrs of Uganda, the Church of England includes Archbishop Janani Luwum, who was murdered in 1977 by Idi Amin's henchmen; they also commemorate Luwum separately on February 17.


  1. ^ Martyrs in the History of Christianity by Franklyn J. Balasundaram
  2. ^ David Apter, The Political Kingdom in Uganda: A study of bureaucratic nationalism, Princeton University, 1977, p77
  3. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica:Martyrs of Uganda
  4. ^ Long-Distance Trade and Foreign Contact in Uganda, Library of Congress Country Studies, December 1990 (accessed 6 June 2009)
  5. ^ From the homily at the canonization of the martyrs of Uganda by Pope Paul VI: "Et mentione digni sunt alii etiam, qui, anglicana instituta religiosa profitentes, pro Christi nomine morte affecti sunt." ("And the others are worthy of mention also, who, professing the Anglican religious customs, were afflicted with death for the name of Christ.") Vatican Archive
  6. ^ Martyrs of Uganda from Patron Saints Index
  7. ^ Biography from the Holy See website

External links[edit]