By Joseline byakatonda
Each year, martyrs day leaves a feeling of the next celebration being far in reach with some wondering if they will live to see the day. As is the norm, this year, pilgrims flocked Namugongo to commemorate the Uganda Martyrs Day on 3rd June; to celebrate a bold act of those – majority youth – who embraced death to witness to Christ than lower their faith flags to fear and threats from Kabaka Muwanga. Putting off excuses of those who whine about how crowded the place will be, I was graced, following in the footsteps of my mother who walks from Bukedea each year, to participate in the celebrations while earmarking children and youth engagement – a personal passion.
One would think Uganda’s entire population collected in Namugongo. As usual, it was survival for the fittest. However, thosewho pilgrim each year knew how to swiftly manoeuvre through the system. Some whose feet were trampled upon reacted with anger which could not solve the problem; but only silent prayer and keeping in mind why one was there did. The feeling of the celebrations is new each year and uniquely special. All cannot be told; if you attended, you already have your teacher of experience, if you didn’t, endeavour to attend next year. Children, youth and different groups were visible thanks to Tororo Archdiocese stakeholders.
The use of Missionary Holy Childhood – children helping children – to participate in the animation was a super A. This marketed the movement which some parents ‘probably’ did not know about. Those with children in this movement were able to know how beneficial it is to their children while those that have declined their children from belonging to this movement were left with the urge after the children became a centre of attraction for both media and the congregation. Majority chose to dance to their style: a sign they were impressed with their creativity. Who didn’t see how they shook their chests and waists! There’s reason to now invest in the ‘expensive’ Missionary Holy Childhood uniforms. They were smart in their missionary uniforms reflecting the Church colours while the youth beautified the scenery further with ‘bikoyi’, African fabric for women.
Tororo Archdiocese should be applauded for reading the signs of the times. Uganda Martyrs celebration is an all nations, all parishes, all dioceses, all age groups, all professions, all leaders forum; a conglomeration of all categories. It is the all nations day for Uganda, an opportune moment to market or advertise the various programmes and movements in the Church and the times are telling the tale of youth and children. For a message to capture attention and reach far, Uganda Martyrs day is the ideal day. Missionary Holy Childhood was a take home. We the children of this nation and in the Church felt embraced. The message was loud and clear about us being valuable.
The Xaverians were also in the limelight, aiding with directing people. The Xaverians proclaimed the principle of integration as they included youth, teens and adults. The integration was a good mixture, if the pilgrims minimized the youth and teens, the adult Xaverian would swing into action to reinforce order. The Eagles taught the eagle-let to fly. It may be assumed that Catholics know about these groups but not all, hence having participated on such a day is a good marketing strategy because ideally, unless ‘WE’ display what we have, the Church will not be able to sell the beauty within. The beauty of the Church was displayed and the pillar of voluntary service emphasized. The Xaverians have contributed to the cleanliness of my parish following their commandment of cleanliness always. In a way, Xaverians sabotage the notion of ‘no service without pay’.
Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations in the mid 90s attracted a number of schools; a day most students would look forward to though in some instances for the wrong reasons. However, the teachers say due to the crowds, it has become increasingly challenging to monitor the children and students from misbehaving, getting lost and the hassle of convening them for departure.
The day ends up being a cat and mouse race between the teachers and students. This year though, not many schools were involved at various stages in the celebration; it was an opportunity for the schools that braved the crowd to advertise their brand. Children and youth can be misunderstood, often times demeaned especially when adults want them to learn and do things at their pace, a misconception overruled by Tororo Archdiocese.
Children and youth animators took position by 8:30AM until 1:30PM when the Eucharistic celebration ended. They also gave us a mega bonus, dancing for another two hours cheering the choir, as pilgrims excited, dancing all through with vigour; six whole hours of engagement bearing the sun and thirst. Determination is not only a power in adults but children and youth too. Each hymn was accompanied with a different dancing styles mastered well to the tune, a sign of ample preparation. They did not only master the dances but, hymns too. How large their brains and memories are, capable of recalling details, a caution to mind what we feed their brains and memories.
After investing several months of time in preparations enabling children to comprehend the hymns, relics and strokes; the quality of the animation was unchallengeable. The perpetrators of knowledge in various capacities might have to think twice when information is not understood and practiced. How dynamic, involving, accommodative and practical are the methods of teaching?
Twaweza an independent East African initiative established in 2009, striving to improve learning enabling environments for children in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda has in the past released a number of learning assessment reports but Ugandans are always the lowest. The UNDP Human Development reports also reveal Uganda among the countries with low literacy rates in East Africa, a trend we must all challenge. Twaweza, a Kiswahili word meaning ‘we can make it happen’ is to get us working to improve how information is passed on to children.
The children learnt the dance dynamics because they had a role to play and in fact the challenge was on them to make it. They therefore had to prove a point to either perform or drop out, each learning at their pace but in the end mastering the art. Also, the strokes were creative. I met children in kindergarten pronouncing sounds with action related to do things in daily life e.g. sound related to the action of a heavy thing falling on the ground booooooooooooooo. The teacher demonstrated it so well that they were saying it along the way.
By nature, human beings desire public importance – a feeling of being important and respected – which despite insults and disrespectful comments from some pilgrims the youth received on this day, they were fully engaged. It is a human instinct. No matter the insults, those with/out uniform still exercised their authority, doing a good job. Those who participated will remember the day with photos, videos and news clips but above all, the ‘swag’ that their Catholic faith has brought them will most certainly compel them to grow in faith. The Church instilled faith and leadership qualities into the youth. The act of involving them certainly conveyed a message of ‘you are important, irreplaceable and relevant in the Church’ which most certainly will make them want to belong and grow in faith. We plead for more visibility!
Whereas the youth question still puzzles many in the Church and government, often viewing them as a conglomeration of obstacles, Tororo Archdiocese instead looking at the other side of the coin viewed them as a resource. I applaud the Archbishop of Tororo, Most Rev. Emmanuel Obbo, A.J and the entire organizing committee for engaging us youth and children in core -activities pertaining Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations. You may not see the seeds of faith, worthiness and confidence planted in the hearts of these young people now; but, only time will tell.
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