By Can Grace Kaiso
It is a historical fact that over 45 young men, with the youngest aged 14, were murdered by King Mwanga for embracing the Christian faith between 1885 and 1886.
The circumstances surrounding their killing, as narrated from different historical sources, are consistent.
When the Missionaries arrived in the country, they settled at the King’s palace, and their activities were strictly monitored.
This meant they had intense interaction with the pageboys who oversaw the various activities in the palace.
It is no wonder, therefore, that they became the first converts to the Christian faith.
The palace, being the administrative centre of the kingdoms’ activities, was also a strong formation centre for upcoming leaders.
The pageboys as they were known, came from different parts of the country, especially the Busoga region.
As the Missionaries progressed with their activities, which included teaching their followers how to read and write, many pageboys took advantage of this opportunity and progressed into being the most enlightened in the emerging white man’s sphere of influence.
The growing influence of the missionaries and the increasing loyalty of some of the pageboys to these foreigners generated anxiety and mistrust among the high circles of the kingdom royalists.
Embracing the Christian faith by the pageboys entailed a breaking away from the old lifestyle, forming new alliances, adopting a different set of moral and religious standards, and adherence and allegiance to a totally new ideology.
This set in motion a chain of activities aimed at testing the loyalty of those in the palace to the king and his kingdom.
For the pageboys these events brought them to a critical point of decision making.
The competencies they had acquired (reading and writing) meant they had a promising future as far as the affairs in kingdom were concerned.
They could easily be considered for administrative posts, with all the solemnity, honour that accompanied them and was really a sure path to wealth in those days.
On the other hand, however, their newfound faith had introduced them to a different world view of the living hope and eternal life in Christ.
As one person put it, people in their right mind do not choose death.
The Uganda Martyrs did not choose death; they chose life and faith in Christ – even if it meant that they had to die for it.
They became martyrs because they chose to witness for the Lord by dying for His Holy name.
First and foremost, the choice is to place our allegiance in Christ.
Everyone must get to that decision point about following Christ.
This entails dying to our own desires and rejecting the values and priorities of our own culture.
Secondly, following Christ is costly. It is not a laissez-faire affair.
Choosing to follow Christ is like leaving the bank of a river and throwing oneself into the sailing boat.
One is likely to face all kinds of storms. Jesus has warned us as His followers to be prepared to take up our cross and to follow Him (Mark 8:34).
Thirdly, in the midst of the challenges Christians face, they are not alone, they are not helpless.
God has promised to be our refuge and our strength and every present help in the time of trouble (Psalms 46).
Lastly, by raising Christ, God has brought about a living hope for those caught up into life-threatening situations.