Uganda Martyrs’ Day celebrations for 2020 cancelled due to coronavirus

Uganda Martyrs' Namugongo Catholic shrine. Courtesy photo.

Novel coronavirus continues to halt progress in all sectors across many countries in the World. Churches and Mosques too, are not spared.

In Uganda, the ongoing partial lockdown has stopped religious activities from taking place; Churches and Mosques have all been closed for more than 40 days now.

Announcing the first lockdown in March this year, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, in a televised state of nation address said it was decisive to close all concentration points like schools, Churches, Mosques, universities, bars and night clubs, among others to limit spread of the virus.

Christians and Muslims, including Seven Day Adventists have been advised to pray from their homes or follow Friday, Saturday and Sunday preaching from different televisions or radio stations.

With Uganda’s second edition of lockdown set to expire on 5May, 2020 – with no idea it could be lifted or extended, the Catholic Church has made a decision to call off this year’s Uganda Martyrs’ Day festivities.

Yearly, the celebration takes place from May to June, with millions of pilgrims from around the world coming to attend.

In a letter dated 29, April 2020 and signed by Rt. Rev. Joseph Antony Zziwa, Chairman Uganda Episcopal Conference who’s also the Bishop of Kiyinda Mityana Diocese to His Eminence, Graces, Lordships and Msgr, it reads:

“You all know how COVID-19 has impacted the lives of billions of people throughout the world. In Uganda, institutions of learning, churches and several businesses and offices have closed for more than one month. Numerous other ways to prevent the invasive spread of the virus have been put in place by government and world Health Organisation. They include frequent hand washing, social distancing, quarantine, and ban on air, water and road transport. Further, government has put stringent restrictions on public gatherings which have made worship and celebration of the Eucharist, Sacrament and other liturgical-pastoral activities without faithful very difficult.”

The letter continues: “Given the background, Rt. Rev. Serverus Jjumba, the Bishop of the Diocese of Masaka, has officially informed me that his Diocese will not be in position to organise the 2020 Namugongo Martyrs’ Day celebrations (29 May  for youth and 3 June 2020 for the rest of the pilgrims).”

“The position of Masaka Diocese should be understood in light of the fact that organising the celebrations at Namugongo requires frequent meetings involving several people, including government’s security agencies. Further, it demands unfettered movement of persons participating in the organisation of the events. Above all, with the virus still alive in many countries including Uganda, it is not certain when restrictions on gatherings and movement will be lifted. Even if government of Uganda were to lift the ban today, there would not be enough time to prepare for the events,” the letter further reads.

In view of the above difficulties and uncertainty, Rt. Rev Joseph Zziwa added: “I trust that you understand the situation and accept to postpone the Uganda Martyrs’ Day which was supposed to be held in May and June 2020. The Conference will later come up with another arrangement.”

“Wishing you a happy Eastertide and God’s blessing, I remain Yours sincerely in Christ.”

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