The diocese was chosen to lead and animate the celebrations due June 3 at Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo.
Uganda Martyrs Day celebrates the faith of Catholic and Anglican believers who were burnt to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II the then king of Buganda between 1885 and 1887 for converting to Christianity.
Every June 3, Christians from around the world pay homage to the martyrs, with this year’s event to marked under the theme, “Stand firm in the faith that we have taught.”
The Bishop of Hoima Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Kirabo Amooti, said in a statement that the theme, chosen by the diocese, calls on the faithful and pilgrims to be strong witnesses in faith, personal lives, families, places of work and all areas that their daily lives influence.
Bishop Kirabo said the Catholic Church “honours those who exhibit such courage, devotion, and selfless sacrifice for their faith as heroes and models of faith who intercede for the living before God.”
Twenty two Catholic Martyrs were canonised on October 18, 1964, as saints by Pope Paul VI, during the Second Vatican Council in Rome, Italy.
Thousands of pilgrims from around the world usually travel to Uganda for the June 3 pilgrimage, with many walking thousands of miles to show their devotion to God and as homage to the faith and resilience of the martyrs.
As such, the Government has in recent years been adjusting its own economic basket to tap into the opportunities offered by pilgrimage by way of religious tourism. Ahead of this year’s Martyrs Day fete, the Government has announced it is positioning efforts to tap into the pilgrimage for tourism revenue.
While addressing the media on preparations for the celebrations at the Media Centre in Kampala, on Wednesday, the State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda, said faith-based tourism market is fast growing as more destinations and suppliers work with religious organisations to create new tourism products.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, about 330 million tourists visit the world’s key religious sites every year and spend about $18 billion.
According to Bishop Kirabo, several activities have been lined up in the run up to June 3 as part of paying homage to the martyrs. They include Uganda Martyrs Walk 2017, that will see the faithful walk in the footsteps of the the martyrs on Saturday, May 27.
It is under the Martyrs Walk that Uganda Tourism Board’s efforts to deliver on religious tourism are expected to come afore. Bishop Kirabo said the Uganda Episcopal Conference and Hoima Diocese in partnership with Uganda Tourism Board will undertake a one-day pilgrimage from Munyonyo Martyrs shrine—from where the story of martyrdom started.
“This symbolic walk is a spiritual journey to enable our Christians today to experience the martyrs’ pain and last moments on earth in a commemorative walk from Munyonyo to St Matia Mulumba Church in Old Kampala,” Bishop Kirabo said.
“This walk is part of the continuous grand plan to organize such a pilgrimage every year and to officially launch the pilgrimage to Namugongo by people from all over the world.”
This year’s walk will be the second such official event to be included on the Uganda Martyrs day celebration calendar intended to promote Uganda Martyrs trail further.