2/16/2007

A Martyr Shepherd.

Archbishop Janani Luwum, Primate of Uganda, a shepherd for his people, was martyred on the 17th of February 1977. He has entered the list of saints remembered in Lesser Feasts and Fasts in the Episcopal Church. You can read the story of his witness HERE.

How are we to address the nature of his witness? The Global South web pages posts his remembrance this way: "He would not compromise on Biblical truth and he paid the ultimate price." GS Website also gives the date as February 16th, the last time he was seen alive. The date in Lesser Feasts and fasts is set for the 17th. The story referenced in this short statement by the GS Web pages does not speak to that aspect of his courage but rather to his pastoral courage in confronting the power of the State in the person of the President Idi Amin.

This is what the biographical sketch says: "The Archbishop called on President Amin to deliver a note of protest, signed by nearly all the bishops of Uganda, against the policies of arbitrary killings and the unexplained disappearances of many persons. Amin accused the Archbishop of treason, produced a document supposedly by former President Obote attesting his guilt, and had the Archbishop and two Cabinet members (both committed Christians) arrested and held for military trial.

On 16 February, the Archbishop and six bishops were tried on a charge of smuggling arms. Archbishop Luwum was not allowed to reply, but shook his head in denial. The President concluded by asking the crowd: "What shall we do with these traitors?" The soldiers replied "Kill him now". The Archbishop was separated from his bishops. As he was taken away Archbishop Luwum turned to his brother bishops and said: "Do not be afraid. I see God's hand in this."

The three (the Archbishop and the two Cabinet members) met briefly with four other prisoners who were awaiting execution, and were permitted to pray with them briefly."


There is no doubt that the Archbishop was convinced and convicted by his faith that that that faith was biblically based. Was that a matter of not compromising on "biblical truth?" Yes of course if what is meant by biblical truth is justice for the poor and the oppressed, care for those in prison, praying with those about to be executed and suffering for that faith and witness.

In this sense we are all on the same side. "Biblical truth" is the light of God's Word shown through the biblical witness on to our lives and giving us the light of Christ to live by.

One wonders what Archbishop Luwum would think of the use of "biblical truth" as applied to those who reference it in these days to condemn others of the Faith.

I have prayed at his memorial in Kampala. St. Thomas Church, Newark, Delaware, where the Moderator was once Rector and I was associate, while on staff at the Church Center, has a stained glass window remembering him. The Rector was instrumental in getting the window installed. One of the Archbishops successors visited the church to see the window. His current successor, and the Moderator will not receive communion with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, on whose Executive Council I serve.

I find this sad beyond all measure. Well, I am sure we all will pray from the collect:

"Grant us to be so inspired by his witness that we make no peace with oppression, but live as those who are sealed with the cross of Christ, who died and rose again, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Someone has pointed me to the Episcopal News Service and the note there of a moment of some unity reached around the memory of the Archbishop.

"
In other activities, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi led a prayer service commemorating the anniversary of the death of Janani Luwum, African martyr and former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, who was murdered in 1977 under dictator Idi Amin's regime.

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, who escaped Amin's rule in 1974, read two prayers. 'Both were under the pastoral care of Janani Luwum," Canon James Rosenthal, communications director of the Anglican Communion, told reporters. Jefferts Schori read a lesson as part of the commemoration.'"

There are moments of grace.

4 comments:

  1. I was wondering about the discrepancy in dates - I originally had him in my calendar for Feb 16, but I ended up dating my commemorative blog post for today (technically posted it yesterday). the exact date doesn't matter that much, anyway.

    I was disgusted at how the GS Anglican site treated ++Luwum's witness as an excuse for partisanship. right now, I have a comment on the site saying basically thanks for nothing - we'll see how long it stays up.

    granted, we have no idea how ++Luwum would respond to the current crisis. He, too, might have refused Eucharist with the Primates for all we know.

    But the point is we don't know - we celebrate his life together, as you said, and hopefully we don't start bickering over which day he was martyred.

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  2. I think it is Shepherd--check your spelling

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  3. anonymous...thanks. changed it.

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  4. well, as I expected, the idiots at Global South Anglican deleted my comment.

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