An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Martyrs of Uganda

( The Church Missionary Society began work in Uganda in 1877. At the end of the twentieth century the Anglican Church accounted for about 25% of the population of Uganda. On June 3, 1886, 32 young men, pages in the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death on a large single pyre at the execution ground at Namugongo. These court pages were usually from the upper ranks of the culture. They cared for the king and his living quarters. King Mwanga's court was a place of considerable homosexual activity. The king liked handsome young men, and his position gave him access to many of them at court. The boys and young men who became Christians refused his homosexual advances, and he viewed their refusals as insubordination. When none of his pages greeted him upon his return home from a hunting trip on May 25, 1886, Mwanga was furious. The next day all the pages were summoned before the king. He demanded that those who were Christians renounce Christ. None of them did. He then pronounced the death sentence on a large number of them, and those not condemned to death were taken away and castrated. On Ascension Day, June 3, 1886, 32 of them were killed. Among the martyrs were Anglicans and Roman Catholics. The martyrdoms continued under Mwanga. The total number of martyrs is not known, but at least 23 were Anglicans and 22 were Roman Catholics. A leader among the Roman Catholics was Charles Lwanga, who was singled out for special cruelty. The 22 Roman Catholics were canonized in 1964, and are honored as the “proto-Martyrs” of African American Africa. The martyrs of Uganda are commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on June 3.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.