What price to be Jesus’ disciple? For one Ugandan, it was life.
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/03/what-price-to-be-jesus-disciple-for-one-ugandan-it-was-life/
By Frank Obonyo
The road from the capital city of Kampala to Mucwini, Uganda,is mostly paved, but it still takes eight hours to travel the 380-mile journey. Our driver attempted to make the trip enjoyable through uplifting music and pointing out various attractions, but the voyage was still long.
When we finally reached the northern, scorching-hot Kitgum District of Mucwini, I thought about Nathanael’s disappointing reaction to Philip’s claim in John 1:46 when he and others saw the Messiah. Nathanael asked if anything good could come out of Nazareth. I also wondered how something good could come out of Mucwini given the dry heat and its distance away from Uganda’s business hubs.
Something good did come out of there. It was former Church of Uganda Archbishop Janani Jakaliya Luwum who stood for what he believed. As with Jesus of Nazareth, thatstand cost him his life on earth. Luwum died in February 1977 after being falsely accused of treason against then Ugandan President Idi Amin.
Annually, a memorial service and national celebrations are held at Luwum’s ancestral home in Mucwini. On February 16, 2019, I was among Uganda Christian University (UCU) staff and students who joined the rest of the country to celebrate this amazing man’s life.
The Rt. Rev. Alfred Olwa, Bishop of Lango Diocese and formerly a member of the UCU faculty, led the service for 10,000 people, including me, government dignitaries, 13 Bishops and other church leaders.
Bishop Olwa encouraged the congregation to desist from living in the past because “God is doing a new thing.” He advised them to focus onto the future by emulating Archbishop Luwum’s virtues.
Archbishop Luwum’s indelible influence and the ultimate price he paid in Uganda is not new information,but it merits a reminder.
The Sunday Vision of February 17, 2019, reported that an infuriated Idi Amin on February 13, 1997, summoned Archbishop Luwum and his wife for a meeting at the State House in Entebbe. Amin told Luwum that 11 boxes of automatic guns and other weapons were found near his residence at Namirembe in Kampala. Despite his protests, Luwum was beaten and shot. In the midst of the accusations, the Archbishop remained calm and maintained his plea that he was an innocent man. While the official government account of his death describes a car crash, it is generally accepted that he was murdered on the orders of Amin.
I cannot precisely liken the Archbishop’s suffering to that of Jesus Christ, but I imagine he endured heavy beatings because he knew that he was innocent and was dying for the right reasons. In life, such difficult situations are hard to grapple with and there’s nothing one can do to prevent them from happening but as a Christian, how should we respond?
Luwum was convicted by the love of Jesus Christ. He knew there was hope at the end of it all. He was a true revolutionary and a hero who did not hope only to leave his children a bigger car, house and land but he thought about his whole country of Uganda and her people. He knew that he was part of the process to free Uganda from Amin’s tyranny. His death gives us a sense of what it means to be loyal, truthful and making Uganda a better place than we found it. We need to be focused, trust in the Lord and remain hopeful even to the point of death.
What price are we paying for the betterment of others, our communities and our countries?
In Luke 14:26, Jesus says that if anyone “comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and also his own life,” he cannot be a disciple of Christ. While those words seem harsh, the point is that a true follower of Jesus models His ideals. Luwum emulated Christ’s suffering by challenging Amin’s unjust rules and cruel acts.
Today, the church and Christ’s teachings face counter forces. How do we react? Do we stand up, or we are we simply contented and unbothered? When the son of man returns, how many Luwums will He find on earth?
I believe Luwum did not accept being defined by where he was raised. My guess is that he believed that opportunities should never be wasted. Little wonder he skyrocketed through the church ranks. Similarly, all of us can make an impact in life regardless of our origin, wealth and paper status. All we need is hope, focus on the Word, perseverance to teach and to keep God’s commandments and actions beyond complacency.
Frank Obonyo works in the Uganda Christian University Communications and Marketing Department.
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