Honor for Archbishop Luwum

Adapted from a report by Anglican Communion News Service the Rev. Nigel Collinson

Leading figures in Uganda have announced they will hold a day of celebration to remember Archbishop Janani Luwum, who was assassinated for opposing Idi Amin. Luwum served as Archbishop of Uganda from 1974 until his martyrdom in 1977.

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugund, former Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, and other bishops announced a major event to remember the 20th-century martyr.

Every February 16 for the last 37 years, Mucwini Primary School has hosted a small function to commemorate the late archbishop. This year a major event is set for the same day at Archbishop Luwum’s home village and burial site in Mucwini. Archbishop Stanley Ntagali said he will be the chief celebrant and that Most Rev. John Sentamu, a son of Uganda and Archbishop of York, will preach.

Luwum’s daughter July Adriko has worried in previous media reports that he has been forgotten by Ugandans.

In A Century of Christianity in Uganda, Tom Tuma and Phares Mutibwa described Archbishop Luwum as “a gentle, peaceful and humble man,” a determined shepherd who “was capable of searching for the hundredth sheep even if that meant risking his own life.”

On February 12, 1977, Archbishop Luwum delivered a note of protest to Amin about the regime’s many acts of violence.
Amin summoned him and other religious leaders, including the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop and a prominent Muslim leader, to the presidential palace on February 16. Amin harangued the group and then allowed all the leaders but Luwum to leave one by one.

Bishop Festo Kivengere later said that as he left Luwum said to him, “They are going to kill me. I am not afraid.”

He was not seen alive again. The next day, February 17, Amin’s regime said Luwum had died in a car accident. He had, in fact, been shot. He left a widow, Mary Lavinyo, and nine children.

In July 1988 a statue of Luwum was unveiled in Westminster Abbey, honoring him as one of the ten best-known martyrs of the 20th Century. His death is commemorated on February 17 across the Anglican Communion.

“I do not know how long I shall occupy this chair,” Luwum once said. “I live as though there will be no tomorrow. … While the opportunity is there, I preach the gospel with all my might, and my conscience is clear before God.”

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