Lwanga, Charles and companions

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Martyrs of Uganda (d. 1885–7). This group of twenty-two Africans who died for their faith includes Joseph Mkasa, who reproached the ruler Mwanga for debauchery and for murdering a Protestant missionary bishop, James Hannington (1885), Charles Lwanga, who was in charge of the royal pages and had baptized four of them, and Kizito (aged thirteen), who was one of the pages, whom Lwanga had saved from the ruler's paederasty. The day after the chieftain had killed another page, Denis Sebuggwawo, for catechizing, all the pages were assembled; Christians were ordered to separate themselves from the others; fifteen at once did so (all under twenty-five years old), and they were later joined by two others already under arrest and by two soldiers. They were asked if they wished to remain Christians and they answered: ‘Until death.’

By this time Mkasa had been beheaded; the others were led out to Namugongo, thirty-seven miles away, were wrapped in mats of reeds and burnt alive. Their exemplary courage and cheerfulness were comparable with those of the early Christian martyrs.

The persecution, instigated by a tyrant who was fanatically opposed to Christianity, also claimed Protestants as well as Catholics. Further victims were Matthias Murumba, a judge, and Andrew Kagwa, a prominent catechist. All these martyrs of Uganda were canonized in 1964; their feast was included in the Roman calendar in 1969 as the protomartyrs of Black Africa. Feast: 3 June.

Apostolic Letter of Benedict XV, with details of their martyrdom in A.S.S., xii (1920), 272–81; J. P. Thoonen, Black Martyrs (1941); J. F. Faupel, African Holocaust (1962); Bibl. SS., xii. 746–8.

Subjects: Christianity.

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