Some of the pilgrims at Namugongo Shrines during a previous pilgrimage

Every 3rd of June is a very special day for Christians in Uganda and several others from the neighbouring regions. Thousands of faithfuls trek from their homes to reenact the journey to the Namugongo shrines, the same way the martyrs did years before they were killed.

The journey always starts with faithfuls visiting the different martyr sites within the city such as those in Munyonyo, Kisenyi and top it off with a mass by the Bishop at a selected area. Within the holy week, several people trek for the final journey that leads to the shrines in Namugongo with a mass that is attended by dignitaries and worshippers from all over the region.

Pilgrims looking at effigies of some of the Uganda martyrs who were burnt alive
Pilgrims looking at effigies of some of the Uganda martyrs who were burnt alive

The Uganda martyrs were a number of believers who were killed because of their beliefs on orders from Ssekabaka Mwanga II, the then King of Buganda between the years 1885 and 1887. There were twenty two believers who were beatified by Pope Benedict XV on the 6th of June in 1920 and later canonised in 1964 by Pope Paul VI as Saints.

The martyrs belonged to diverse religious beliefs including Catholics  and Anglicans, among them two catechists who were beatified in 2002.The commemorations of the event is to celebrate their Faith in God and how they keep inspiring other believers to stand for their faith and beliefs.

Over the years, the celebrations have evolved from not only being a public holiday for the faithfuls in Uganda, but also an event that brings together several companies in the economy such as; beverage, hospitality and food.

Food venders, are allocated space along the stretches of the Namuwongo- Kyaliwajjala road as well as outside the entrance of the shrine. Hotels, guest houses and hostels are usually fully booked by the day the of the event with faithfuls who came in a little early.

There are many important occasions that take place in the course of every given year in Uganda. But the most important question is; how do we promote them to the rest of the country and to the world?  How do we keep them alive and make returns out of them for our tourism sector?

Using such popular holidays as a platform to showcase Uganda’s tourist attractions is quite a valuable step for the tourism sector, towards producing even bigger and better numbers in terms of revenue generation.

When domestic tourism is put at the forefront of promoting the sector, it easily inspires ordinary Ugandans to become involved in appreciating what our country has to offer to the rest of the world.

The writer works with Jovago.com is an online hotel booking service with offices in Kampala (Uganda) Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya) and Dakar (Senegal)