2nd June by Joy Whitelaw

When reading Acts I remembered that tomorrow is the day in the Church year to remember the martyrs of Uganda in 1885 – 1887, and 1977, I felt I wanted  to try to find out how Christian martyrs endured their time of suffering.


Today we learned what happened to Paul and Silas, when  people saw  and heard Paul tell the demon in the slave girl to come out.


I suppose it was only to be expected that the slave’s owners were furious at losing their livelihood, but for me, this doesn’t seem a reason for them to be flogged and chained in  prison


For Paul and Silas events change later that night, while singing hymns and praying, there was an earthquake, their chins fall off and the doors opened. When the jailer found they were still there he took Paul an Silas home to feed them, wash their wounds, and listen to them.  Then the whole household was baptized


That has not been the case in other times throughout the centuries, from the stoning of Stephen, or many known and unknown martyrs, who have been imprisoned or  killed for their Christian beliefs.


Often it was because fr the greed for power of of their country’s leaders. Even now being a citizen of a country does not necessarily mean you can openly worship in any religion.


In more recent times, we have records written by or about people who are remembered for enduring great suffering and death for their beliefs.  It is not only Christians who suffer, Moslems and Jews, and other religions have also been targeted.


Bishop James was on his second mission to Uganda.  He was born and brought up in Sussex and had joined the Anglican Church as an adult.


He studied at Oxford and on graduating he was ordained and served as a Curate for five years years, until he was sent as a missionary to Africa, where he developed  a fever and returned home.


In 1884 Bishop James had recovered from the previous illness He was now  returning to Buganda, later Uganda, as the first Anglican Bishop of East Equatorial  Africa.


On reaching the border he and his party were met by soldiers of the new ruling King, Mwanga II,  who captured them, tortured them for a week before killing 48 of his party by the time they killed him   on 29 October 1885


From his diary written each day  that week he became very ill with fever and full of pain. On the 23rd  after yells and bangs from  outside, he expected to be killed  and wrote “let  the Lord do as he thinks fit, I shall not make the slightest resistance”


By the 28th he his fever was worse and his hut filthy. On 29th. the morning of his last hours, he said that “Psalm 30 came to me with great power and upheld me”. Psalms were mentioned more than once in his diary and gave him the will to continue.


One of his party, an African porter, who had escaped, reported that. later that morning, the guards came and bound him and took him. As they did so, he heard Bishop James singing hymns, recognizing the word Jesus.


I attended Bishop Hannington Church in Hove for several years without really knowing until recently the history of why it was built in his memory


He was not the only Christian killed at that time in Buganda.  Between October 1885 and the end of 1887 nearly 50 Christian converts were executed.  The youngest is said to have been a 15 year old boy who was burned alive.


At that time in Buganda, a virtually unknown part of Africa, people only just began to hear about Christianity. Missionaries were seen by rulers as a threat.


Compare their poverty and fear with what was happening here.  This Church was built twenty years before, and the tower being considered.  Wall paintings and much of what we know today in our church was already here.


People here led a much more secure life, the Crofters Act of 1886 seeing the end of the Clearances. Fishing, crofting, together with knitting were helpihg to improve the quality of l


1922 saw the birth of  Archbishop Janani Luwum in Uganda.He spent his childhood as a goatherd, but quickly  showed the ability to learn when sent to school. He became a teacher, and a convert to  Christianity


He was ordained in 1956, appointed Bishop in 1969 and then Archbishop of Uganda 1974. He was a very well respected churchman who partly studied in England, in Canterbury and Nottingham


In 1974 Idi Amin came to power following a military coup. This began a time of unexplained disappearances and killings,  if anyone disagreed with his regeme.


Archbishop Janani and the Bishops were against the regime, and sent  a letter to Idi Amin. This was in 1977 and the result was that the Archbishop and two senior government  ministers were  arrested  and were reported  to have died in a car crash. Archbishop Luwum’s body was found to be full of bullet holes when his coffin was opened before burial, disproving the car crash


People are still being imprisoned or killed because of their religion.. We must not forget that people of all religions suffer in many places in the world.


What do we learn from this. God loves us through all the good times and our suffering. He is there to give us strength when we need it.


We can help others. We can pray, We can support those who are refugees by the offer of friendship when given the opportunity .We can show love and care when help is needed.


As Bishop Anne reminded us  last Sunday, God loves all and that love is always be there for u.


That is what can give us the strength to face the difficult  times in our lives, times which  seem difficult to endure.


Let us pray


Loving God we thank you for your love and care for us. Sometimes we do not realize that you are there in every aspect of our lives, We may need to learn new ways of speaking to you in prayer, particularly during stress, illness or other difficult times when we need help to endure suffering. We offer this prayer in the name of your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ