Janani Luwum was born in 1922. His father was a convert to Christianity. Janani was sent to school and eventually became a schoolteacher. In 1948 he was converted. He became very active in the East African revival movement, and became a lay reader, then a deacon, and then a priest in 1956. He was chosen to study for a year at St Augustine's College in Canterbury, England. He returned to Uganda, worked as a parish priest, and then taught at Buwalasi Theological College. He made a second visit to Britain to study at the London College of Divinity, returning to Uganda to become Principal of Buwalasi. In 1969 he was consecrated bishop of Northern Uganda.
The Church in Uganda began with the deaths of martyrs (see Martyrs of Uganda, 3 June 1886, and James Hannington and his Companions, Martyrs, 29 October 1885). Around 1900, Uganda became a British protectorate, with the chief of the Buganda tribe as nominal ruler, and with several other tribes included in the protectorate. In 1962 Uganda became an independent country within the British Commonwealth, with the Bugandan chief as president and Milton Obote, of the Lango tribe, as Prime Minister. In 1966, Obote took full control of the government. In 1971, he was overthrown by General ID Amin, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. Almost immediately, he began a policy of repression, arresting anyone suspected of not supporting him. Hundreds of soldiers from the Lango and Ashli tribes were shot down in their barracks. Amin ordered the expulsion of the Asian population of Uganda, about 55,000 persons, mostly small shopkeepers from India and Pakistan. Over the next few years, many Christians were killed for various offenses. A preacher who read over the radio a Psalm which mentioned Israel was shot for this in 1972.
Early in 1977, there was a small army rebellion that was put down with only seven men dead. However, Amin determined to stamp out all traces of dissent. His men killed thousands, including the entire population of Milton Obote's home village. On Sunday, 30 January, Bishop Festo Kivengere preached on "The Preciousness of Life" to an audience including many high government officials. He denounced the arbitrary bloodletting, and accused the government of abusing the authority that God had entrusted to it. The government responded on the following Saturday (5 February) by an early (1:30 am) raid on the home of the Archbishop, Janani Luwum, ostensibly to search for hidden stores of weapons. The Archbishop called on President Amin to deliver a note of protest at the policies of arbitrary killings and the unexplained disappearances of many persons. Amin accused the Archbishop of treason, produced a document supposedly by former President Obote attesting his guilt, and had the Archbishop and two Cabinet members (both committed Christians) arrested and held for military trial. The three met briefly with four other prisoners who were awaiting execution, and were permitted to pray with them briefly. Then the three were placed in a Land Rover and not seen alive again by their friends. The government story is that one of the prisoners tried to seize control of the vehicle and that it was wrecked and the passengers killed. The story believed by the Archbishop's supporters is that he refused to sign a confession, was beaten and otherwise abused, and finally shot. His body was placed in a sealed coffin and sent to his native village for burial there. However, the villagers opened the coffin and discovered the bullet holes. In the capital city of Kampala a crowd of about 4,500 gathered for a memorial service beside the grave that had been prepared for him next to that of the martyred bishop Hannington. In Nairobi, the capital of nearby Kenya, about 10,000 gathered for another memorial service. Bishop Kivengere was informed that he was about to be arrested, and he and his family fled to Kenya, as did the widow and orphans of Archbishop Luwum.
The following June, about 25,000 Ugandans came to the capital to celebrate the centennial of the first preaching of the Gospel in their country, among the participants were many who had abandoned Christianity, but who had returned to their Faith as a result of seeing the courage of Archbishop Luwum and his companions in the face of death.
Propers for Janani Luwum - 16 February - Archbishop, Confessor, and Martyr
Almighty God, by Whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before Thee blessed Janani, Archbishop and Martyr in Uganda, may, like him, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom he gave obedience, even to death, and by his sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Epistle - Ecclesiasticus 4:20-28.
Observe the opportunity, and beware of evil; and be not ashamed when it concerneth thy soul.
For there is a shame that bringeth sin; and there is a shame which is glory and grace. Accept no person against thy soul, and let not the reverence of any man cause thee to fall. And refrain not to speak, when there is occasion to do good, and hide not thy wisdom in her beauty. For by speech wisdom shall be known: and learning by the word of the tongue. In no wise speak against the truth; but be abashed of the error of thine ignorance. Be not ashamed to confess thy sins; and force not the course of the river. Make not thyself an underling to a foolish man; neither accept the person of the mighty. Strive for the truth unto death, and the Lord shall fight for thee.
The Gospel - St. John 12: 24-32.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
Reference and Resources: