Today’s Bible reading
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” — Acts 4:17-32
More thoughts for meditation about Kizito (1872-June 3, 1886)
Kizito* was the youngest of the Ugandan martyrs who suffered death rather than renounce his faith on June 3rd, 1886. The Ugandan Martyrs refer to a group of forty-five Christians – twenty-two Catholics and twenty-three Anglicans – who were tortured and killed over a period stretching from 1885 to 1887 for their faith. Christians were persecuted by the Kabaka (ruler) who was Mwanda during this period. Bugandan territory is now incorporated into the Republic of Uganda.
Priests belonging to the Missionaries in Africa, commonly referred to as the White Fathers (due to their white habits), arrived in Uganda in 1879. Their mission was met with little resistance at first as they shared their faith among the people of Buganda. That changed when the Kabaka, Mutesa, died and was succeeded by his son, Mwanga. Mwanga viewed Christianity as a threat to his power.
The Christian views on morality – especially the teaching that pedophilia was a sin – did not endear them to Mwanda, who was a pedophile and routinely solicited sexual favors from his young pages. His chief page, Joseph Mukasa was a Catholic who did his best to protect his young charges. He even had the courage and conviction to confront Mwanga and insist he give up his sinful ways. Mwanga’s response was to have him beheaded.
Joseph Mukasa was succeeded as chief page by Charles Lwanga who also was a Catholic and who also was vigorous in his protection of the young pages. Mwanga became increasing enraged as the pages, Kizito among them, continually refused and rebuffed Mwanga’s sexual advances. Mwanga eventually had the pages brought before him, giving them a choice to renounce their Christian faith and live – or choose to keep their faith and die.
Many of the pages including Charles Lwanga and Kizito chose their faith. There were fifteen in the group who were bound and made to walk two days to Namugongo where they would be killed. One of the Christians, Matthias Kalemba, was martyred enroute.
Upon reaching Namugongo, Charles Lwanga was the first to be burned at the stake. The following is a moving excerpt taken from the Catholic News agency:
The executioners slowly burnt his feet until only the charred remained. Still alive, they promised him that they would let him go if he renounced his faith. He refused saying, “You are burning me, but it is as if you are pouring water over my body.” He then continued to pray silently as they set him on fire.
The other pages were burned alive together. As they were being executed, their faith remained strong until the end, as they prayed and sang hymns.
The death of these martyrs had quite the opposite effect the Kabaka intended. Many witnessing the horrific deaths of these amazing young men who gave their young lives so willingly for their faith asked to be baptized.
* This description of Bugandan kinship structure may be unfamiliar to you if you grew up in the United States. Kizito’s real father was Lukomera of the Lungfish (Mamba) Clan, and his mother, who bore Lukomera nine children before she deserted him and died, was Wanga¬bira of the Civet-cat (Ffumbe) Clan. Nyika, or Nyikomuyonga, Guardian of Mwanga’s umbilical cord, often said to be the father of Kizito, was his father by adoption only. The relationship arose from a blood-pact between Nyika’s father Kiggwe and a member of the Lungfish Clan named Mitalekoya. Kiggwe, a descendent of Kabaka (King) Kateregga and a member of the Leopard (Ngo) Clan, was county chief of Ggomba when he made this alliance. Later he incurred the royal displeasure, was deprived of his office and possessions and became virtually and oulaw, because he was out of favor with the Kabaka. In this time of adversity, the blood-pact stood him in good stead. Because of it, the Lungfish Clan gave him and his family asylum and aid, and Mitalekoya became a second father to his son Nyika.
Uganda martyrs: Tracing the roots of St. Kizito
Mwanga – the king who killed the Uganda martyrs
Suggestions for action
The church in Uganda remains attentive to sexuality. That seems predictable, since some of its foundation is resistance to sexual predators. Most contexts prove dangerous for Christians, if not everyone. What is prowling around like a lion, as Peter sees it, trying to devour your heart and soul?
The main pressure the King of Buganda felt in the time of Kizito was from colonizers. The French Catholics and English Anglicans were in league with their respective country’s rush to “protect” areas of Africa. Muslim traders were eager to have fortified trading posts and a beachhead for Islam. Evangelism coupled with colonization is one of the stains on Christian history. Like Joseph told his brothers, “You meant it for evil but God used it for good.” Africa is now the continent with the most Christians. Have you experienced or done anything evil that God used for good? Praise God for the goodness, and consider what justice and forgiveness mean to you.