12 February 2017

Uganda: Reflections on the Life of Janani Luwum

Photo: Daily Monitor
Archbishop Luwum was murdered by president Idi Amin on February 16, 1977 at Nakasero following a period of tension and showdown with the regime.

Christians from all walks of life thronged Namirembe Cathedral last Sunday to commemorate the 40th martyrdom anniversary of Archbishop Janani Luwum.

Archbishop Luwum was murdered by president Idi Amin on February 16, 1977 at Nakasero following a period of tension and showdown with the regime.


Ben Okello, son of late archbishop, said their father was more than just a parent and a preacher, he was a patriot. He said his father's love for people regardless of their status brought him closer to people from all walks of life.

"The legacy of love, the legacy of justice and legacy of a committed preacher shall live to last. All those in power should remember that there are people who died for this justice and that justice should be highly respected," Okello said.

Okello said their mother was very happy to hear about the prayers for her late husband and father of 10 children two of whom have since passed on. She told her children that the Namirembe service for her husband reminds her of February 19, 1977 when her husband's body was taken by Amin soldiers to Wii Gweng in Kitgum yet Namirembe Church had organised a requiem mass on the same day.

"Our mother connects this day to February 19 because she did not attend her husband's burial and even today she was unable to be with you," Okello told the congregation.

Okello recounts that their mother took them Mukono from where they fled to Kenya.

His conversion

The Rev Canon Dr Alfred Olwa, from Uganda Christian University (UCU), recounted that Archbishop Luwum never meant to become an evangelist. But in what he describes as dramatic conversion in January, 1948, he accepted Christ as his personal Saviour.

"At the influence of the revival of the revival leadership, Luwum accepted to leave teaching and enroll for church ministry. Revival leaders were eager to have the new revival fire lit inside the church," he said.

Passionate about the gospel

Dr Olwa went on to say, Archbishop Luwum was a reflection of Jesus who came for the sinners and did good for his people.

"Imagine he never intended to be an evangelist. In the most dramatic event he converted to Christianity and 40 years later, we are celebrating a martyr who gave his life to Jesus Christ," Dr Olwa stresses.

"He was a man of the Bible. He even now wants us to hear the word of God. He encouraged every single parish to have Bible studies," he explains.


Archbishop Luwum's ministerial life, Olwa says, influenced social life of citizens because he was a citizen of good faith. He could not keep a deaf ear when things went wrong.

"Like Jesus Christ, Archbishop Luwum worked for the flock. He listened and understood his flock. He could go to preach in a sub parish where people were whining," Rev Olwa recollects.

Revive Luwum's values

Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who was the chief guest, reminded the congregation, especially young ones that Amin's regime was characterised by terror. He estimated that more than 800,000 Ugandans perished in the regime but the death of Archbishop Luwum was the climax.

"When most of us heard that our Archbishop had been murdered, his blood started acting literally as glue for all Ugandans who had not before agreed to work together before. We worked together and Idi Amin was overthrown," he notes.

He salutes Archbishop Luwum for having the courage to speak against regime that had killed many Ugandans and was dangerous for everyone.

"Our liberation is to some extent attributed to his blood. I'm happy that students need to know the role archbishop played to the country's liberation. He loved and cared for youth," Dr Rugunda said.

The prime minister warned the youth to have responsibility to maintain the peace, because they are custodians of this country. Dr Rugunda observes that the youth need to rejuvenate Archbishop Luwum's values in whatever they are doing.

Others said

Luwum according to Justice James Ogoola and Dr Stephen Kazimba, Mityana Diocese Bishop, was devoted to young people. He always made special efforts to be available for students and other young people who he often engaged and encouraged. He looked out for talent and mentored a lot of young persons, including current Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and Archbishop emeritus Luke Orombi.

Archbishop Luwum is remembered for his vision and commitment to development issues particularly in the fields of education, empowerment of women, poverty reduction and rural development. One of the fruits of his development vision and innovation is the church edifice (Church House) nearing completion on Kampala Road.


Born in 1924 in Mucwini among the Acholi people, Janani Luwum occupied virtually all key positions in the church ranging from Principal of Buwalasi Theological College, Provincial Secretary at Namirembe, Bishop of Northern Uganda and in June 1974 following unanimous election, he was installed as Archbishop of the ecclesiastical Province, then covering Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire (Eastern DR Congo).


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