Security personnel on Wednesday turned away hundreds of Christians
who wanted to access Wi-polo Martyr’s Shrine in Agago District to commemorate
the 103rd anniversary of the martyrdom of Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa.
Annually, thousands of Christians throng Paimol Martyr’s shrine in Paimol
Sub-county to celebrate the lives of the Acholi catechists who were killed for
their Christian beliefs.
But on Wednesday morning, due to the covid-19 restrictions, several Christians
within and outside Agago who turned for the annual Christian event were denied
access to the venue.
It followed a directive issued by the Agago Resident District commissioner
Suzan Akany on Tuesday suspending mass prayers at the shrine in a bid to fight
the spread of covid-19. More than 500 pilgrims had by Tuesday evening camped at
the shrine to commemorate the martyrdom of Okello and Irwa.
Akany said that the mass congregation of the pilgrims would put many lives at
risk of contracting covid-19 since the majority were not observing the covid-19
standard operating procedures.
Both the army and police were Wednesday deployed at the various entrances of
the shrine to control the large numbers of Christians.
Fr. Joseph Okumu, the Rector Wi-polo Martyrs Shrine in Paimol said
that the high turn-up of the Christians was a result of the long period they
had been at home minus congregating.
He notes that although they had attempted to control the
Christians, it proved impossible because they wanted to exercise their faith.
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Fr. Okumu lauded the police for the professionalism they exhibited
in dispersing the surging numbers of Christians.
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He also noted that the overwhelming numbers of Christians forced
them to arrange for prayers in shifts in line with the covid-19 guidelines. At
least six separate masses were conducted and attended by a handful of
Christians at the shrine.
Fr Cyprian Ocen, the Parish Priest of Patongo Patongo Catholic
Parish in Agago who conducted one of the six masses at the shrine asked
Christians to emulate the lives of Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa.
Paul Arop a Christian from Agago District says that despite the
prayers not being colourful due to covid-19 restrictions, he is happy to have
fulfilled his wish of making a pilgrimage to the shrine.
“I feel happy that I came and prayed to blessed Irwa and Okello at their tomb,
I hope my prayers will be answered and the years ahead will be successful for
me and my family,” he says.
Peninah Lamaro, another pilgrim from Kitgum District says she has been making a
pilgrimage to the shrine adding that most of her prayers have been answered.
Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa were Acholi catechists killed around 1918 for
devoting their lives to teaching Christianity. They were beatified by his
holiness Pope John Paul II on October 20, 2002, among the 22 other Roman
Catholic martyrs in Uganda.