Saint Janani Luwum’s simple tomb that attracts thousands of pilgrims. Here, chairman of local organizing committee for memorial prayers, Mr. Michael Ocan poses for a photo shot at the simple tomb at Wii-gweng, in northern Uganda.
“During the 38th commemoration in 2015, the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu promised to put a shade over the tomb, arguing that the tomb containing remains of this great man (Luwum) cannot be left open under scorching sun. There are plans to improve it further to meet international standards. There will be three great attractions to Wii-gweng village; the tomb, statue and the Basilica”, says Mr. Ocan
KITGUM-UGANDA: On February 16, 2015, the first international prayers to commemorate the martyrdom of Uganda’s 20th Century martyr, the late Janani Luwum, was held at the site where he was buried 38 years ago. It was not less than the second most powerful Anglican Church, Archbishop Dr. John Sentamu of York, who presided over the ceremony and also preached to thousands of pilgrims at little known Wii-gweng village, Mucwini, in Kitgum district, Northern Uganda.
The late Janani Luwum was murdered in Kampala by then Uganda Dictator Idi Amin on February 16, 1977 together with the late Eronayo Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi both cabinet ministers in his government, on allegations that they were plotting to overthrow his regime. He was buried three days later at St. Paul’s Church of Uganda at Wii-gweng in Kitgum district in a simple grave.
Before 2015, when Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Rev. Stanley Ntagali initiated the international commemorations, the day was always marked at the diocesan level.
Since then, Wii-gweng has become a household name in the Anglican Communion and the world at large. It is now gazetted by the Uganda Tourism Board as one of Uganda’s religious tourism sites, besides Namugongo Uganda Martyrs’ shrine where over forty Christians were burnt to death in 1846, and Wii-polo, the site where two Catholic Church catechists mere martyred in 1918.
The archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali used the presence of so many dignitaries, including son of the soil, Archbishop Sentamu, to request President Yoweri Museveni to gazette February 16, a public Holiday in Uganda in honor of the late Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire, the most Reverend Janani Luwum. Mr. Museveni readily granted his request; and the first holiday to mark the day was observed in 2016.
In 2017, it will be the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby himself, who will deliver the sermon and also launch the master plan to develop Wii-gweng, which is located more than 458 kilometers north of Kampala city, Uganda’s capital. The hitherto remote and little known village will then effectively be put on the world map. Some of the developments locals want established at Wii-gweng’s 97 acres of land include the tomb itself, a university, a martyr’s village, a museum and information corner, a hospital, a Basilica, Luwum’s statue, a radio and television stations.
What is written on the tomb?
The following words and bible quotation was inscribed in a small tombstone.
“The Late Archbishop of Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire
The Most Rev. Janani Luwum.
No one will be able to defeat you as long as you live. I will be with you ~ Joshua 1:5-7”
Some white tiles were put around the tomb, overlooking the Western entrance of St. Paul’s church of Uganda. The tomb sits on laterite stones commonly known as gweng in Luo dialect.
According to the Local Organizing Committee chairman, Mr. Michael Ocan, the tomb was first rehabilitated in January 2015 and that there is plan to build it further to meet international standards.
“During the 38th commemoration in 2015, the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu promised to put a shade over the tomb, arguing that the tomb containing the remains of this great man (Luwum) cannot be left open, under scorching sun. There are plans to improve it further to meet international standards. There will be three great attractions to Wii-gweng village; the tomb, the statue and the Basilica”, says Mr. Ocan.
Mr. Ocan complained that there is laxity in the Church of Uganda for mobilizing resources from Christians for organizing the annual pilgrimage now that government, other stakeholders and well-wishers have come in to contribute.
“I advise everybody who intends to travel to Wii-gweng in 2017 should not expect to be facilitated and fed. I advise everybody to carry own purse and not rely on the organizers of the day”, concludes Mr. Ocan.