The story of the Uganda martyrs is said to have started in January 1885 when members of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) asked the king for permission to leave as they were going to Kagei in Tanzania to have some letters sent back home.
They were officially seen off by the kingdom, with Katikkiro (Buganda’s prime minister) Mukasa presenting Alexander Mackay with gifts such as foodstuff to be used during the journey.
On January 30, 1885, Mackay, Robert P. Ashe and three native boys as their helpers set off for the journey to Kagei from the mission house in Busega. Three hour’s into the journey, they were attacked and ordered back to where they had come from without explanation.
Upon reaching near the CMS mission house where the Anglican martyrs’ church in Natete is today, the missionaries were released and their two servants taken away.
Mackay and Ashe went to see the prime minister and to seek an explanation as to why they had been forced back. Unfortunately, the prime minister was indifferent to their inquiries.
To get his attention, they sent him gifts hoping they would soften his heart. But the gifts were rejected.
On January 31, 1885, the three teenage boys who were with the two missionaries – Mark Kakumba, 16, Joseph Lugalama, 12, and Noah Serwanga, 19 – were killed at present-day Busega Anglican Martyr’s Church.
Their executioner, Mudalasi, a Muslim, first asked them if they admitted being followers of Jesus Christ before burning them.
Mudalasi went on to ask the boys if they believed they would resurrect if they died. Their answers angered him and he threatened to burn them. But they never relented in their resolve.
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