The organizers of this year’s Martyrs’ Day celebrations have exceeded their target following a boost from the government.
Justine Kasule Lumumba, the Chairperson of the finance committee and Minister in Charge of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister says that Jinja Diocese has already raised more than 3.2 billion shillings in cash and pledges, surpassing their budget of 2.2 Billion Shillings.
Jinja Diocese requested a substantial amount of 2.2 billion Shillings for the preparations of the annual Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations. This amount is twice the sum requested by the Fort Portal Diocese the previous year and more than three times what the Gulu Diocese had budgeted for in 2019.
According to Lumumba, the diocese has since received 640 million Shillings on its account and has received pledges amounting to around 500 million Shillings. However, she mentioned that they recently received a significant boost with a government contribution of 2 billion shillings, offered by the President.
Kasule mentioned that the funds were discussed during the Cabinet meeting held on Monday, and the President instructed the Finance Minister to make the money available promptly to the Anglicans and Catholics.
She however emphasized that individuals with good intentions should continue to donate adding that any remaining balance at the conclusion of the event would be allocated to a development project within their diocese, serving as a commemoration for the 2023 Martyrs’ Day.
Meanwhile, the Anglican organizing committee, under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Samuel Egesa, Bishop of Bukedi, expressed their enthusiasm and anticipation for successfully meeting the budgetary requirements of the event. However, the Bishop chose not to disclose specific details regarding the exact amount needed and the current status of the collection process.
The Anglicans had a budget of 3 billion Shillings allocated for the event, which includes both the Bishop Hannington commemoration and the June 3rd celebration for the Ugandan martyrs.
Bishop Egesa noted that the expenses for the Bishop Hannington event have been fully covered at this point, and they are now focusing on securing additional funds specifically for the martyrs’ festivities.
Meanwhile, with only ten days remaining until the annual Martyrs Day celebration, there is a bee hive of activities at both the Anglican and Catholic shrines.
Our reporter visited the two venues and observed various committees putting up the finishing touches on their preparations. The security team reported that they had completed the security and threat assessment.
Officers were seen inspecting and paying special attention to areas where pilgrims draw the famed holy water. During the inspection, one of the counterterrorism officers remarked to colleagues, “We should handle these areas differently this year.”
These specific locations, namely the spot where water is drawn from Martyrs Lake at the Catholic shrines, and the well where the perpetrators washed their weapons after killing the martyrs at the Anglican site, have been prone to experiencing stampedes almost every year.
As part of their routine, engineers from the National Water and Sewerage Corporation were also present and were tasked with treating the water that is drawn. Despite warnings over the years that this water is unsafe for consumption, believers, driven by deep faith, insist on taking it. Many pilgrims carry as many liters as they can back to their homes, and the queue to draw this water is consistently full day and night during the pilgrimage days.
Our reporter also noticed the cleaning, painting, and mopping activities taking place on every floor and roof of structures at the Catholic church.
Francis Muwonge, the administrator of the shrine, mentioned that they have already made all the necessary preparations and are fully prepared to welcome the multitude of visitors who gather at the shrine.
At the Anglican site, construction work on the amphitheater was still in progress, transforming the surrounding areas into a beautifully appealing atmosphere. The pavilions have already been completed, and chairs have been installed for the guests. In addition, improved washing rooms have been set up, and a permanent sound and light system has been installed to enhance the overall experience.
Bishop Egesa acknowledged that even though the place won’t be fully finished by June 3, they will certainly utilize it on the Day.
The Uganda Martyrs Day is an annual event in honour of 45 young men who converted to Christianity between 1885 and 1887 to the annoyance of Kabaka Mwanga II of Buganda, who ordered that they be burnt to death.
Each year, thousands of pilgrims, both from within Uganda and from other parts of the world, gather at Namugongo, the site where the majority of the martyrs were killed, to celebrate their bravery.
This year, the event at the Catholic shrines will be led by the Jinja Diocese, while a cluster of ten dioceses from Eastern Uganda, including Busoga, Central Busoga, Bukedi, North Karamoja, Soroti, Mbale Kumi, North Mbale, and Karamoja, will lead the event at the Anglican Church.