Parenting Three Martyrs Excites Kitgum Residents

Father Anthony Nyeko, the Priest of St. Marys Catholic Parish in Kitgum district, says the martyrdom of the three saints has impacted the ministry of Christ in many ways.
Portrait of Former Archbishop Janani Luwum

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Kitgum residents are celebrating more than St. Janani Luwum memorial anniversary this week. They are celebrating the parentage of three of the world renowned Ugandan martyrs namely the former Archbishop, Janani Luwum and two catholic catechists, Jildo Irwa and Daudi Okello.

Okello and Irwa became the first set of martyrs hailing from Kitgum district after they were hounded, threatened and speared to death in October 1918 by a group of executioners sent by Rwot Ogal, the then sub chief of Paimol in Agago district.


Their remains were abandoned in an open landscape between the great hills of Paimol. The field has since been renamed Wii-Polo to mean in Heaven. The two catechists were commissioned by Father Cesare Gambaretto, an Italian priest at St. Mary's Catholic parish where Comboni missionaries established a base East of the seat of the Anglican diocese of Kitgum.

Daudi Okello was born in Payira Ogom in present day Pader district while Jildo Irwa hailed from Olwor Nguu - Labongo in Okidi Parish in Labongo amida Sub County in Kitgum district. They later migrated to Kitgum Mission for catechumen trainings from where they were confirmed into Christianity and commissioned as priests in Paimol. They have been beautified as saints.  

About 60 years later, another prominent martyr sprang up in Archbishop Janani Luwum, this time from the Church of Uganda. From a pagan primary school teacher, Janani Luwum embraced Christianity as they went about various community evangelism missions - all the while as a community gospel interpreter. 

He rose through the ranks of the Church to become the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Boga Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi before he was accused of acting as an agent of exiled President Milton Obote and plotting to stage a coup against the Idi Amin led government. He was killed alongside former Inspector General of Police, Erinayo Oryema and cabinet minister, Oboth Ofumbi.

Father Anthony Nyeko, the Priest of St. Mary's Catholic Parish in Kitgum district, says the martyrdom of the three saints has impacted the ministry of Christ in many ways.

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Father Nyeko says for priests especially, serving in the footsteps of the three martyrs is a big brainer in an era of technological advancement.   

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George Ochan Acaa Lamola, a descendant of Jildo Irwa says they take a lot of pride in his martyrdom and the high regard pilgrims from around the world extend to his legacy.

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Mary Luwum, the Widow of Archbishop Janani Luwum, says the martyrdom of Luwum has turned her into the mother of the entire world. She says she resolved never to participate in any vote to prevent dividing her children.

With majority of Uganda martyrs killed in Namugongo predominantly coming from Central Uganda, Kitgum remains the only up country district, which has so far produced three renowned martyrs.