Charles Lwanga & Companions

II Peter 1.2-7; Psalm 90; Mark 12.1-12

Between 1885 and 1887, several groups of Christians, both Catholics and Anglicans, numbering about 45 martyrs in all, were put to death at the orders of the kabaka (ruler) of Buganda (today part of the modern nation of Uganda).  The White Fathers mission had brought Catholic Christianity to the area in 1879.  At first their work was tolerated by local rulers, but Mwanga II, who came to the throne in 1884 at the age of 18, began a persecution directed primarily against African converts.

A large group of young men who were pages at the royal court had become Catholics.  Their catechist, St Joseph Mkasa, was beheaded on 15 November 1885.  On 3 June 1886, 22 pages (whose master, St Charles Lwanga, had baptised many of them himself), all of them under the age of 25, were wrapped in reed mats and burnt alive at Namugongo, near Kampala.

The Christian pages had reproached Mwanga for debauchery, and that may have aroused his fury.  Certainly the wider context of this episode was the ‘scramble for Africa’—the colonisation of Africa by European powers.  Today Christian faith and practice flourishes in independent Uganda.

Posted in Daily Reflection.