BY EDWARD KASIRYE
June 3rd Uganda will celebrate the Martyrs Day, like last year, Masaka Diocese will lead the celebrations which are purely an invite occasion. The rest of the people will follow Mass on Radio and TV.
Over the years, the Uganda Martyrs day has been celebrated massively by Ugandans and the international community with pilgrims from different walks of life journeying to Namugongo to celebrate, give thanks and also recall the Martyrs who sacrificed their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ in 1884. However, the 100th and 101 celebrations will remain historical due to the fact that a limited number of pilgrims, including the Church leaders and media reporters have been allowed to the celebration while having the lay faithful following the proceedings on live television and radio broadcasts. Thus, the occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic has had numerous celebrations in the country becoming scientific, including the Martyrs day.
What have we to learn from the scientific celebrations? The scientific celebrations are the way to go in this era where the fight against Covid-19 is at the epitome of everything and also bearing in mind that the 2nd wave of the pandemic is taking its course, not only in the rest of the countries but also a threat to Uganda. We should therefore bear in mind that the occurrence of this pandemic has had dire effects on the religious, social, economic and political dynamics of the populace.
Religious: In the past, the Catholic Church and the government of Uganda have had the chance to disseminate more information about the martyrs to the world over. The pilgrims from different walks of life as they travelled over the 100 districts of Uganda to Namugongo not only mixed with the communities where they made stopovers like in the towns, Parish Churches and Subparishes but they also continued to spread the gospel along their journeys. Therefore, the occurrence of Covid-19 has been detrimental to the transition of the gospel through the Uganda Martyrs’ celebrations.
Economic: Irrespective of the fact that Uganda Martyrs day celebrations on 3rd June is mainly meant for the faithful, the business community also gains through the celebrations. The Martyrs day celebration has always been a golden opportunity for the community around to host and also get economic gains from food and accommodation to the pilgrims. Hotel owners, restaurant
operators and transporters both national and international reap a lot from the celebration. The Airlines often sell prepaid air tickets for foreign visitors and the press. The travel agents, tour operators and car hire offices have their cars put to use for airport pick-ups, drop and shuttles between hotels and other residences and places visited by the pilgrims/visitors. Prior to the Martyrs day, there is often hiring of the road spaces. Additionally, the boda-boda men are always active due to the closure of some roads to vehicles. The taxis, buses and even Lorries transport committed Christians from different parts of the country to attend Mass at Namugongo. The designers, artists and vendors also have their day to sell the Martyrs’ clothes, T-shirts, mugs, cups and magazines of the Uganda Martyrs plus the Uganda flags to the pilgrims. Not forgetting: the vendors, beer sellers and the pork joints. Since this day is convened during school going time, Mr. Luyimbazi Patrick stated that he was always in anticipation of the Martyrs day celebration. He explained that it has always been a chance to sell off their merchandise to raise school fees, which hasn’t been the case due to the scientific celebrations. However, given the prevailing wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Katamba Joel, a business man commented in great support of the scientific celebrations as it would help prevent the escalation of the pandemic. He advised that it is important that the people stayed home and watched the celebrations on Televisions or their smartphones as we pray for peace for our country Uganda.
Socialization: In addition, Namugongo Martyrs’ day is a day for socialization as it is a time in a year where old boys and girls, alumnus and almuna and other relatives often meet
up to reunite, share views and also remind themselves about their good olden days. Back then, one ex-seminarian intimated to me that he was always eager looking forward to this day when he could be able to meet up with his old boys whom he had taken some good time without meeting. He noted that this was the only time to bond and also meet up with their boyfriends and girlfriends from different schools, colleges etc.
Conclusion: Uganda is a nation dedicated to God as evidenced in the Motto: For God and my country and the Uganda Martyrs sincerely bear witness to this. The coming and stay of Covid-19 should not deter us from enriching our faith but be a time for us to continue to grow in faith as the Lord has indeed preserved us during and through this Covid-19 pandemic era. As the scientific celebrations go on at Namugongo, let us also stay safe at our homes and local places of worship reflecting and praying to God to continuously have His eyes of mercy towards us especially in this new elective political transition. May the Holy Uganda Martyrs intercede for us always!
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