Archbishop Janani Luwum



"Shining the light of Janani Luwum"
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Westminster Abbey Commemorates 20th Century Christian Martyr

Looking at the history of Christianity, we remember the many who lost their lives in defence of the Christian Faith, human rights and freedom of expression. To mention a few, David Livingstone at Ujiji in Tanganyika, Daniel Comboni in Sudan, Martin Luther King in America, Masemola in South Africa and Janani Luwum in Uganda, who was a martyr of the twentieth Century.

Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum was murdered on 17 February 1977 for standing up to dictator Idi Amin. The Archbishop Janani Luwum Trust, created in his memory, was officially launched at Westminster Abbey in the United Kingdom on Saturday 18 February 2006.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu (John Giles / PA) The Archbishop of York, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr. John Sentamu, the President of the Trust joined other worshippers for the traditional service of Evensong at Westminster Abbey at 3 pm. He then led hundreds of worshippers in a short, exuberant, African-style service with drums and singing.

Dr Sentamu said, "Archbishop Janani Luwum was a major influence on my call to the ministry. I am honoured to be part of this permanent and practical memorial to him."

Bishop Gideon Oboma, who joined Archbishop Sentamu, brought greetings from Uganda. He had been Bishop of Northern Uganda, following in the footsteps of Janani Luwum, and his home in Gulu is in the very house where Archbishop Luwum lived when he himself was Bishop. Reverend Dr. Jeanette Meadway, a trustee of the new charity, joined the two.

Speaking on behalf of the trustees, Dr. Meadway said, "A Ugandan Christian told me of the apprehension she felt on the night Archbishop Luwum was killed. Her story helped me to understand the great respect the people had for their Archbishop and his example." The Trust will promote Luwum's passion for the Christian Gospel and the well-being of mankind through relieving poverty, promoting education, development and health.

After Evensong the congregation moved to the nave of Westminster Abbey, which erupted in colour, rhythm and singing. Archbishop Sentamu himself had chosen the form of worship, and those who had seen the TV coverage of his prowess on African drums in York Minster were not surprised to find African music and plenty of scope for drumming on this occasion.

The start of the new Trust is supported by hundreds of Africans who revere their African martyr, Janani Luwum. "In heaven there is joy" was the meaning of the first song in Lwo, his mother tongue. It set off an infectious expression of joy, which was taken up by everyone in the Abbey.

"Shining the light of Janani Luwum" is the vision of the Trust, whose mission statement is "Living the passion of Janani Luwum for the Christian Gospel and the well-being of mankind through the relief of poverty, promotion of education, development and health." Initial projects of the Trust will be in Gulu in Northern Uganda. Future projects will be sought in Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and Sudan, areas that the Archbishop Luwum had administered before his mysterious death at the hands of dictator Idi Amin.

Archbishop Janani Luwum Janani Luwum was born in Mucwini near Kitgum 18 years after Christianity first arrived in Northern Uganda. Ordained in 1955, and by then a gifted leader and teacher, he was consecrated Bishop of Northern Uganda in 1969. In 1974 he became the Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire (now part of the Democratic Republic of Congo). In 1976 he stood up against president Idi Amin's abuse of human rights and freedom of speech drafting a letter of protest to him and demanding to see him in person.

After a mock trial the government announced that Luwum had been killed in a car crash. The fact was that he had been shot for opposing the president. It was 17 February 1977.

The life of this godly man of vision was thus dramatically cut short, along with his ambitions for the people of Uganda, Africa and the entire world. Westminster Abbey has dedicated a Statue and a Chapel to him. There is also a Memorial Service every February.

Northern Uganda, where Archbishop Luwum was born and bred, is a fertile land, which has been ruined by twenty years of war between the government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army. Rebels soldiers attack villages, killing and injuring adults and abducting children as child soldiers and concubines.

More than 80 percent of the population of northern Uganda have fled or been forced by the Government into crowded IDP (internally displaced persons) camps with shortages of food, water, education and healthcare. Children in those families which remain on their land are constantly at risk of abduction. Each night hundreds of them walk into towns, especially Gulu and Kitgum, to sleep in shelters, on verandas or in the street to escape rebel attacks.

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