By Racheal Kiiza

On Saturday, June 3rd, people traveled from all over Uganda and neighboring countries to be at Namugongo Catholic Shrine to celebrate Martyrs day. The annual Martyrs Day celebration commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Ugandan Catholic and Anglican converts.

According to Wikipedia, The Uganda Martyrs were a group of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now part of Uganda, who were executed between 31 January and 27 January 1887. The martyrs were burnt to death by Kabaka Mwanga II for failing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church beatified the martyrs of its faith in 1920 and they were canonized as saints in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

This day attracts thousands of pilgrims from across the world. Last year, Tanzania had the largest contingent of International pilgrims (4,961). Kenya had at least 4000 pilgrims while others came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

Every year, pilgrims walk miles and miles to visit Namugongo in time for the annual celebration as a demonstration of their faith. Two years ago, Uganda hosted Pope Francis at Namugongo and he became the 3rd pope to visit the shrine. The first was Pope Paul VI in 1969 and the second was Pope John Paul II in 1993.

This year, Hoima diocese led the celebrations and they were the first foot pilgrims to start off their journey from Hoima district to Namugongo. Thousands of people were in attendance to openly celebrate their faith as they remembered the Uganda martyrs.