On my first day in Kampala, Uganda I was told that there are two landmarks which everyone should visit. First, is the Parliament building which is located in the center of town and second is the Martyr’s Shrine. This is where some of the first Ugandan Christians were taken and martyred. Missionaries had come to this kingdom in the 1800’s and worked hard, which much difficulty, to share the gospel among the people.
A handful of young people had believed in Jesus and were rejecting the divinity and absolute power of the King. The King decided to rid himself of this new threat to his power and ordered the execution of these young followers. Twenty four in all, he had them march to an execution site just outside Kampala. It was 1886 when the order was given. The king’s executioner tied them to a tree and told them if they renounced Jesus Christ, the King would allow them to live. They all refused.
They were bound and tied into reed mats and laid upon logs which were to be set to fire. They were placed so that their feet would burn first and they would have to go through excruciating pain before they died. All 24 were placed on one log pile and set ablaze. They not only refused to renounce Jesus Christ, but as they were burning, they did not call out in pain, rather sang praise to the Lord Jesus as they burned to death.
Today, Uganda is a majority Christian nation. Churches are on every street corner and seminaries and universities are abundant. In 1950, the family of the executioner presented a gift to the church which worships on the site. By 1950, the entire family of the executioner had come to Christ. The church building itself is built over the location where they buried the ashes of the martyrs.
Also on the site is an Anglican seminary in which nearly all the clergy of the church are educated and ordained for the church in Uganda. They teach them on that site, so as to remember the testimony of the martyrs, but also so they will remember how far the church has come. It also shows the sacrifice that will likely be required to win all of Uganda to Christ.