Pilgrims brave morning downpour to attend martyrs day celeberations in Namugongo

The number of pilgrims at the Namugongo Martyr’s shrines has drastically increased as the country commemorates the annual event today. 

Over the years, the Martyr’s day has been known as a crowd-pulling event with thousands of faithful trekking from all walks of life to pay homage to 45 Christian converts (22 Catholics and 23 Protestants) that were killed between 1885 and 1886 on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II.  

Pilgrims usually flood the shrines a week leading to June 3. 

However, this year by May 31, 2022, both the Anglican and catholic martyrs’ sites had registered a few pilgrims yet there was an expectation that the faithful were thirsty for this event given the fact that it didn’t take place in the last two years due to COVID-19 induced restrictions.   

Rev Fr Vincent Lubega, the parish priest of Namugongo Catholic martyr’s shrines told URN earlier this week that they expected huge numbers of pilgrims according to information they had gathered from several parishes across the country but they were puzzled by the low numbers.   

“There must be an explanation. Hopefully, many pilgrims timed themselves to reach in the last two or three days so as to reduce the number of days they spend at the shrines. This might have been caused by the current economic situation. If you have little money, you can’t just come earlier as you might fail to support your stay,” Rev. Fr. Lubega told Uganda Radio Network.    

From Thursday afternoon, the numbers of pilgrims kept on swelling as several groups arrived. Even during the night, the security and ushers at entrances remained busy.

 “They have been arriving in huge numbers nearly every minute throughout the night,” one of the security officers at the main entrance to the Catholic shrines told our reporter. 

Thousands were washed clean by the early morning rains as they lined up to enter both venues. 

Isaac Mugamba, a pilgrim from Masaka district noted that they could not leave the line given the fact that there was a possibility of not gaining access in case the venues fill to capacity.  

“Besides, the rain is nothing. It is also a form of blessing. We have braved more than this and we can’t just give up until we have entered,” he noted. At this point, he was around 200meters away from the entrance. Entering the shrines was another tug of war.

It took our reporter about thirty minutes to get clearance at the entrance yet he had an express permit. 

Many pilgrims spent hours lining up. By 7:00 am nearly every space at the Catholic shrine had been covered. 

Pilgrims were fighting for space in all areas. At all entrances, pilgrims are screened for security purposes.

 The officials are also enforcing COVID-19 SOPs including wearing face masks and apart from social distancing  

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