February 17: Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda, and Martyr, 1977

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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Janani Luwum

About this Commemoration

Janani Luwum was born in 1922 at Acholi in Uganda, near the Sudanese border. After his early years as a teacher and lay reader in Gulu, he was sent to St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury. He was ordained priest in 1956 and returned to Uganda to assume responsibility for twenty-four congregations. After several years of service that included work at a local theological college, Luwum returned to England on scholarship for further study at the London College of Divinity.

In 1969 Luwum became Bishop of Northern Uganda, where he was a faithful visitor to his parishes as well as a growing influence at international gatherings of the Anglican Communion. In 1974 he was elected Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga-Zaire.

Luwum’s new position brought him into direct contact and eventual confrontation with the Ugandan military dictator, Idi Amin, as the Archbishop sought to protect his people from the brutality of Amin’s regime. In August of 1976 Makerere University was sacked by government troops. With Archbishop Luwum as their chair, the Christian leaders of the country drafted a strong memorandum of protest against officially sanctioned rape and murder.

In early February 1977 the Archbishop’s residence was searched for arms by government security forces. On February 16 President Amin summoned Luwum to his palace. He went there, accompanied by the other Anglican bishops and by the Roman Catholic cardinal archbishop and a senior leader of the Muslim community. After being accused of complicity in a plot to murder the President, most of the clerics were allowed to leave. However, Archbishop Luwum was ordered to remain behind. As his companions departed, Luwum said, “They are going to kill me. I am not afraid.” He was never seen alive again. The following day the government announced that he had been killed in an automobile accident while resisting arrest. Only after some weeks had passed was his bullet-riddled body released to his family for burial.

Early in his confrontation with the Ugandan government, Archbishop Luwum answered one of his critics by saying, “I do not know how long I shall occupy this chair. I live as though there will be no tomorrow … While the opportunity is there, I preach the Gospel with all my might, and my conscience is clear before God.

Collects

I    O God, whose Son the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep: We give thee thanks for thy 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 liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II    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.

Lessons

Daniel 3:13–29

2 Corinthians 6:2b–10

John 12:24–32

Psalm 119:41–48

Preface of Holy Week

Text from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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9 Responses to February 17: Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda, and Martyr, 1977

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    Though Archbishop Luwum’s inclusion in HWHM and previous editions of LFF is an exception to the ’50-year’ guideline, it is entirely merited. This is a 20th century martyr by any definition, IMO.

    Bio. A ‘who he is’ and ‘why he is important’ statement would be helpful.

    Readings. This is an excellent set for Archbishop Luwum.
    Hebrew Scripture reading: I take it back (a bit), this reading is longer than others – but it is great, nonetheless.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention February 17: Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda, and Martyr, 1977 « Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music -- Topsy.com

  3. I was looking forward to this commemoration, so it could be included on our Parish facebook page, and I am happy that the phrase “make no peace with oppression” (from elsewhere in the BCP, I believe) made it into the Collect. This is definitely a keeper.

    • Michael Hartney says:

      make no peace with oppression
      This phrase is from Collect 21 (For Social Justice), pages 209 & 260 in the Book of Common Prayer 1979.

  4. John LaVoe says:

    I love the commemoration, mostly because of the man and his faithfulness in the ugly, threatening face of Idi Amin — who, if some on here don’t remember, looked every bit the bullying, evil ogre he was, in so many ways.

    The collect strikes me as almost ideal — even containing a “that” clause, an eschatological affirmation, and a thanksgiving. Nice work, there!

    I do have to admit to second thoughts on the Old Testament lesson. Fun, it is. Appealing, it is, too. A story about a “big bad wolf” type, and a sympathetic band of faithful good-guys, it certainly is. I feel like Scrooge even raising a question, but the story is just too “Polyanna” for an “Idi Amin slaughters Bishop Luwum” commemoration. The bishop’s story didn’t end with him waltzing out of the fiery furnace and being appointed “Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Uganda.” There are people who think the crucifix is a lucky charm, and being a Christian is the panacea against all of life’s difficulties, and if you’re religious enough then God will be your personal body guard. Gretchen Pritchard wrote an essay about children’s bibles not telling the whole Biblica story because they tend to selectively and exclusively tell only the stories with tidy endings and edifying truisms. I’d hate to see us do that to Janani Luwum’s story. There HAS to be an OT reading that tells of a faithful person who stands up to an evil and powerful opponent and is faithful to the end. THAT is the Janani Luwum story, and the kind of OT lesson he deserves. As appealing as the present seection is (and I smile as much as anyone regaling in its stylistic glee), spiritually it’s a Popeye cartoon.

    • that John LaVoe says:

      Ezek 37:1-14 as possible OT. (“Can these bones live?”) It’s not exactly what I called for above, but it acknowledges death and reaches toward the hope and promise of God bringing new life where hopelessness would otherwise be expected.

  5. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    Archbishop Luwum was a genuine martyr for the Christian faith and deserves his place in the calendar. We tend to foret the atrocities of the 20tth Century, but commemorations such as this keep the memory alive.,

  6. Nigel Renton says:

    I suggest the subtitle omit his clerical rank, and simply say “Martyr”.

    Line 5, final paragraph: add the omitted closed quotation marks after the word “God”.

  7. Pingback: February 17 – Abp. Janani Luwum : St. Paul's Episcopal Church

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