Today we join the rest of the world to celebrate Archbishop Janani Luwum Day.
Janani Luwum was the third Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Boga-Zaire. He was born in 1922 and converted to Christianity in 1948. Six years later, in 1954, he became a priest; after rising in rank over the years, he was appointed Church Archbishop in 1974.
Following a military coup in 1971, dictator Idi Amin proclaimed himself President of Uganda. His regime was fraught with human rights violations, corruption, and political embezzlement. An estimated 100,000 people were killed during his rule.
Archbishop Luwum was vocal about his criticism of Amin’s regime and was a prominent figure in the opposition. He encouraged others to speak out and was devoted to his ministry. A leading voice of resistance, he boldly delivered a note in 1977 to the president, protesting against his unjustified killings, policies, and unexplained abductions. Luwum was arrested on February 16, 1977, and accused of treason for allegedly staging a coup. Two cabinet ministers who were supportive of Luwum’s cause were also convicted. Following a supposed car crash, the three were announced dead. A story circulated stating that the prisoners attempted to fight the driver. When Luwum’s family received his body, however, they found it to contain gunshot wounds.
The death of Archbishop Luwum was supposed to end the opposition against Amin’s repressive regime, but the opposite happened. His death became a turning point in Ugandan history. Today, Archbishop Janani Luwum’s statue is among other twentieth-century martyrs at the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London, and he is recognized by the Church of England as a hero. A public holiday to commemorate his death was suggested in 2015 and observed for the first time on February 16, 2016.