Friday, February 16, 2007

Janani Luwum, murdered Feb 17

O God, whose Son the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep: We give you thanks for your faithful shepherd, Janani Luwum, who after his Savior’s example gave up his life for the people of Uganda. 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.

Janini Luwum was the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda from 1974-77. This was during the time of Idi Amin's regime. Amin was a brutal, power-hungry dictator, and a murdered. The Langi and the Acholi were victims of state-inspired violence during his reign; Milton Obote, the Prime Minister of Uganda whom Amin deposed in a coup, was Lango, and Luwum was Acholi. The Asian population suffered violence from the military, and in 1972 they were expelled from Nigeria.

Luwum was elected archbishop in 1974, and allowed Amin to cultivate a relationship with him. Amin was likely seeking credibility. Luwum tried to moderate Amin's excesses.

But Amin was not a man whose excesses could be moderated. The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches increasingly worked together to try to respond to him, and Uganda's Muslims joined them.

“While the opportunity is there, I preach the gospel with all my might. My conscience is clear before God that I have not sided with the present government (Amin’s), which is utterly self-seeking. I have been threatened many times. Whenever I have the opportunity, I have told the president the things the church disapproves of. God is my witness.”

Luwum delievered a letter to Amin on February 12, 1977, protesting the security forces' use of disappearances and arbitrary killings. (Disappear: (of a person) go missing or (in coded political language) be killed). Amin arrested Luwum and two Cabinet ministers, Erinayo Wilson Oryema and Charles Oboth Ofumbi, on fabricated charges of planning a coup. They were tortured and shot to death. Some say that Amin personally shot Luwum.

Amin escaped justice, going into exile in Saudi Arabia. Luwum is commemorated as a martyr in the Church of England and in the Episcopal Church, and his statue is part of a gallery of ten 20th century martyrs at Westminster Abbey in London. Sadly, I didn't know of Luwum when I was in London this summer, so I didn't manage to get a picture of his statue. The picture here is from Westminster Abbey's own site.

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