Martyrs of Uganda
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall
Why? Well, our conservative brethren would like us to believe they were slaughtered because they were good Christian converts who refused to engage in homosexual acts with the King. That view suggests that the King was either homosexual or bi-sexual (he had sixteen wives) and liked to initiate young men into his sexual pleasures. But, it’s actually rather more complicated than that.
According to some scholars, the martyrs were the sons of leaders among the tribes who were sent to the court as pages to complete their education. Submission to the King was a normal part of their initiation. But this was a time when missionaries (Anglican, Catholic and Muslim) were operating in Buganda and the power of the court was declining. The refusal of the pages to submit to the king can be seen as a political act, indicating their greater allegiance to the British missions.
Whatever the motivations of all the players, this was a complex situation in which sex was used for power and the refusal of sex signaled resistance to the power of the king and the traditions of the tribe just as much as allegiance to the Christian faith.
But they are not the only Martyrs of Uganda. In 1977 Archbishop Janani Luwum was murdered after he had spoken out against the oppression of Idi Amin’s regime. We remember his courage and his martyrdom on February 17th – the anniversary of his brutal murder.
But just twenty three days later David was dead, killed by an unknown assailant wielding a hammer. Police blamed his death on robbers but Kato's colleagues said that Kato had spoken of an increase in threats and harassment since the court victory, and they believe that his sexual orientation and his activism were the motive for the murder.
Just as the nineteenth century martyrs lost their lives because of British intervention in Buganda, so Kato lost his life because of foreign intervention; this time from homophobic Americans who are exporting their hatred to Uganda.
This should not be the “feast day” of the Martyrs of Uganda but a day of mourning and prayer for all those who have lost their lives because of homophobia and prayer that God will transform the hearts of those who trade in hate in God’s name.
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall is President of Integrity USA.