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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

UGANDA MARTYRS DAY 2015: MY EXPERIENCE

It was a random thought.
While doing my laundry on Sunday, May 17th, the idea of taking part in this year’s martyrs’ day celebrations just came to mind out of the blue. However there was no way I was going to Namugongo alone. Sometimes what motivates me to accomplish my personal aspirations is when I share it with people around me. I posted the idea on social media mainly to look for friends that could join me in this adventure. Unfortunately none responded positively.
The Facebook post.

Mary is one of the staunch catholic friends I have. I contacted her to know if she would be going to Namugongo, and I was relieved to discover that she would be going, together with her Catholic community of Mulago Paramedical school; Queen Elizabeth Catholic Community. To make it more fun and challenging, we coined the idea of walking all the way to Namugongo.

The pilgrimage.
We set off on 2nd June at 6:00pm from Mulago Paramedical School. But before that, we dedicated our journey to God in a short prayer. We were in a group of around 40 students.
Praying before the pilgrimage.

It took us just 2 hours to reach Namugongo, and of course we didn’t reach as a group, as Mary and I were among the last to reach.
In the foot steps of the Martyrs?
At the entrance.
There were only two entrance points that were used by the estimated three million pilgrims in Namugongo this year. I can only leave to your imagination; the bustle, hustle and ‘survival for the fittest’ kind environment of the entrance. After 2 hours of struggling in the queue, we managed to fight our way in at 10pm.
Part of the crowd waiting to be checked. 

Mission accomplished?
The first thing I did was to jump and punch the air in celebration and tweet because mission Namugongo was accomplished.
The sight of thousands of people; young, old, mothers was just amazing. At this point the reality of martyrdom struck me.
We joined the Luganda mass that was already going on. People were singing, dancing, jumping all in celebration of the martyrs, even though some of the pilgrims were already sleeping.
My energy was running low. I needed something to eat, lest I faint. There was a mini market within the compound of the shrine; food, clothes, statues, Christian books etc were all on sale. I had a simple meal of beans, rice and matooke.
Some slept while others prayed. 

Thank God, for, that night Mother Nature behaved very well. It would have been disastrous if it had rained. With my bag as my pillow, my body covered with all sorts of clothes (Including my Makerere Undergraduate gown), I slept off at mid night.

The D-day.
My worst moment was in the morning. All my life, I had never seen a queue to a toilet that long, over 100m. I just gave up on easing myself, but somehow I managed to survive for the rest of the day.
From where we slept, we moved and squeezed ourselves close to the altar, just behind the tent of the priest. There isn’t much to write about the mass. It was the normal catholic mass.
The look on Mary's face tell it all.


Section of the pilgrims following the proceedings. 


Will I go back?
            It was one of those life time experiences that you can only wish to have once. I might consider going back only when the proposed redevelopment of the shrine is completed; and perhaps when I’ll be in attendance as a VIP. But I do encourage you to experience Namugongo on Martyrs day.

Special thanks.
Special thanks to the Lira Archdiocese for the great organization and animation of the mass, the Police plus other security organs (they did a good job although they need to improve on crowd management especially on the walk ways) and the media houses (NTV, UBC, WBS, NBS, Urban TV, Daily Monitor and New Vision). The wide media coverage partially psyched me to go to Namugongo.

You can read more about the Uganda martyrs here http://www.ugandamartyrsshrine.org.ug/