1886 - Martyrdom Begins When the Killing Of Christians Becomes an Executive Order From the King – 1886

Martyrdom Begins When the Killing Of Christians Becomes an Executive Order From the King – 1886

It is written on the Munyonyo Shrine`s online pages that at the end of a long and futile hunting spree on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 25, 1886, Kabaka (King) Mwanga II of Buganda Kingdom went back home frustrated. The King on his way back from Bulingungwe Island on Lake Victoria, where he had gone hunting, Mwanga met a traditional diviner seated on a small stone called Muwonge. “Seeing the king in a foul mood, the diviner asked the king what the problem was. After intimating his problems, the diviner replied to the king “All your woes are a result of the association of his pages with the white man,” said Muwonge. When the King returned to his palace in Munyonyo, by the lakeshore, he found, to his chagrin, that all his pages were indeed not in the palace. “I do not see any of my attendants here. Where are they?” he asked. And before one of his companions, probably Andrew Kaggwa could answer, the irate king shouted: “Rubbish, I know where they are. They have gone to the white men to study religion. Now I know that the country is no longer mine, but the whiteman’s.” That evening, at his palace in Munyoyno in a fit of rage, the King made the decision to kill all his Christian pages.

Mwanga II took a very aggressive approach to this decision, expelling all the missionaries and insisting that all Christian converts abandon their faith or face death. A year after becoming king he executed Yusufu Rugarama, Makko Kakumba, and Nuuwa Sserwanga, who had converted to Christianity. On 29 October 1885, he also had the incoming Archbishop James Hannington assassinated on the eastern border of his kingdom.

Charles Lwanga`s account of his days in the King`s palace (according to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine online archives) states that days after King Mwanga II had killed Joseph Balikuddembe, head of Christians, Kabaka addressing Charles Lwanga (Currently one of the Uganda Martyr Saints) in a kind fatherly tone, said, ‘My friend, it seems to me that during the past few days you all approach me with a certain fear. Do you think I wish to put you to death like Mukasa (Another Christian he had already Martyred)? If I had him killed, it was not because he prayed to God, but because he insulted me by opposing the order to put the Englishmen to death, and because he informed the white men of my plans. I know that you would not do that; you have, therefore, nothing to fear. I do not forbid you to practice religion; only pray here, and do not go to the white men again. Besides why do you go there at all? They make you no presents; you gain nothing by going to their place. If you should still want to visit them, you would make me believe that you are betraying me, like Mukasa. In that case I will be forced to drive away the strangers, and you with them, in order to save my kingdom. Then they will treat you as slaves; pile work upon you; make you carry stones and handle the hoe; and you will then be sorry for having disregarded my advice.’

Lwanga politely replied saying: “Your Majesty, you think that the white men and their followers have an intention of wanting to overthrow and take over your kingdom (Buganda Kingdom) and us of helping them carry out that wicked plan. This is not true, because, the religion which they teach commands us to serve you loyally, it obliges us to obey our superiors, to love them and to work for the good of our country. Ever since you called me, your faithful servant, and definitely I am. Know then, that I am still ready to lay down my life in your service. I am ready to lay down my life for you and for my Kingdom. Since I joined your services I have never committed any offence against you, you can ascertain it yourself.” The king stared at Lwanga in admiration and wonder at such faithfulness and he marched away stressing his earlier order trying to recall any mistake he had ever found in Lwanga’s life, though, as a matter of fact, Lwanga had served for more than a year in the king’s service as a chief page in the palace and was a common figure in the king’s sight.

King Mwanga II seriously warned and ordered Charles Lwanga and all the Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, never to go to the missions. If and whenever they wanted to pray particularly on Sundays, they had to pray inside the palace. But if they dared continue going to the white men (Bazungu), the king threatened to banish them out of the kingdom with the white men.

Although Mwanga had shown some love for the missionaries as a young prince, his attitude changed when he became king. The once lively and enthusiastic prince in support of the missionaries turned into an intolerant and vicious persecutor of Christians and all foreigners. He felt, with good cause, that the powers and authority his predecessors had enjoyed were dwindling, and had disintegrated under the influence of the missionaries and their converts. The converts had diverted their loyalty to some other authority and their allegiance at all costs could no longer be counted on.

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