KITGUM-UGANDA: As preparations for the visit of the head of the Anglican Church in the world, Archbishop Justin Welby, to the 2017 St. Janani Luwum day gains momentum, his family has flatly refused that his body should be exhumed from the current site at Wii-gweng in Mucwini sub-county in Kitgum district, Northern Uganda, for reburial at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala.
This was revealed by Mr. Basil Okee-Luciima, one of the founder members of “Saint Janani Luwum Memorial Pilgrimage, Prayer & Celebration”, during the monthly meeting of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) held on Sunday, July 3,2016 at All Saints’ Church in Kitgum Municipality, Northern Uganda.
“There was a proposal from the Province of the Church of Uganda to the family of St. Janani Luwum that his body should be exhumed from where he was buried thirty-nine years ago and transferred to Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala and reburied there. His family has however rejected that proposition. I think this is why the province is showing little interest in what we are trying to do”, says Okee-Luciima.
He said there are also people in government who are fighting to fail the committee simply because they are against Dr. Olara-Otunnu, yet he was the one who wrote the concept paper for establishing St. Janani Luwum Memorial.
“There was one such son of Acholi who came to one of our meetings with the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, when we were preparing for the 2015 celebrations and told Dr. Rugunda that the celebration will fail because the committee had involved Dr. Olara-Otunnu a known critic of government. We were all shocked, but thanks Dr. Rugunda, told him off in the face and the organization went ahead and succeeded”, revealed Okee-Luciima.
The Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), Mr. Michael Ocan, says there should be constant dialogue between the National Organizing Committee (NOC) and the Province of the Church of Uganda on the one hand, and between the LOC and the Diocese of Kitgum if things have to move.
“It is good that the family has rejected the proposal to relocate the body to Namirembe. Some people think there is financial gain in what we are doing, yet there is no money. There should be constant consultations at all levels. If there is disharmony, then it gives room for manipulation”, says Ocan.
The committee released a UGX.1,300,708,500/= ($386,215) budget for organizing the 40th St. Janani Luwum Commemoration on February 16, 2017 during which the special guest preacher will be the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rt. Rev. Justin Welby. Out of this, UGX.1,000,000,000/= ($297,089) will go towards the construction of VIP and Worship Pavilions, Pulpit and upgrading the grave to international standards as a tourist attraction.
St. Janani Luwum was the third Anglican Archbishop (Primate) of the Province of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire (Eastern DR Congo) from 1974 to 1977. He was murdered on February 16, 1977, by Idi Amin (then President of Uganda), following a period of prolonged tension and ugly showdown with the Amin regime. He resisted calls by foreign Embassies and High Commissions accredited to Uganda to be assisted and taken to exile, preferring to die for his flock instead.
There is great devotion to St. Janani Luwum around the world except in Uganda which, until 2015, celebrations were marked only by the Diocese of Kitgum. In 1978, Canterbury Cathedral dedicated a special Chapel, 20th Century Martyrs Chapel, to the martyrdom of Archbishop Janani Luwum. In 1988, Westminster Abbey unveiled St. Janani Luwum’s statue, as one of ten Martyrs of the 20th Century thus recognized.
The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquity gazetted two new religious sites as Tourist attractions in Northern Uganda. This includes Wii-gweng site where the late St. Janani Luwum was buried and Wiipolo in Paimol, Agago district where the two Roman Catholic Martyrs, Jildo Irwa and Daudi Okello were killed on October 20, 1919. There is a plan to build Martyrs’ Highway connecting the two sites. The committee organizing this year’s Commemoration of St. Janani Luwum day plans to construct at least four Acholi traditional self-contained huts to be called Martyrs’ Village where visitors like Archbishop Welby will spend their nights.
In a related development, the Archdeacon of Aswa Archdeaconry, Rev. Walter Kidega says he is mobilizing at least one hundred Christians from Awach and Cwero parishes to make it to meet Archbishop Welby on foot, covering at least one hundred kilometers.