The nineteenth century martyrs of Uganda were the first modern black Catholic martyrs of Africa. St. Charles Lwanga first learned of Christ from two members of the court of an African chief named Mawulungungu. Charles became a catechumen (one actively preparing for baptism); soon after this, he entered the royal court of King Mwanga of Uganda, where he served as an assistant to Joseph Mukaso, head of the royal pages (errand boys).
King Mwanga at first favored Charles and the other pages (young men aged thirteen to thirty), but when they rejected his homosexual advances, the king grew angry, and ordered a persecution of “all those who pray” — meaning all Catholics. Joseph Mukaso, who had encouraged the pages to resist, was put to death at the king’s command.
On the night of Mukaso’s execution, Charles requested and received baptism; then, following his friend’s example, he attempted to protect the others from the king’s demands. Charles and his companions were imprisoned. On June 3, 1886, he and some of the other Catholics were burned alive, while still others were killed by the sword. The remaining Ugandan martyrs were killed early in 1887. St. Charles Lwanga and his twenty-one companions were canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
1. Contrary to what some of the Church’s critics claim, Christianity is not merely a white, European institution; the gospel is intended for persons of every language, nationality, and race, and all people are capable of receiving it and of following Christ faithfully and heroically.
2. God gives wisdom and strength to all who seek these gifts. St. Charles Lwanga, though young and still only a catechumen, was able to recognize immorality and able to refuse to take part in it.
3. Though homosexuality is considered “politically correct” in our society, homosexual acts are sinful — and committed Christians accept this truth and, with God’s help avoid such activity.