Uganda: Archbishop Jonah Lwanga dies at 76

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Kampala, Uganda – Since the September 5 death of Archbishop Jonah Lwanga in Athens, Greece, the spiritual leader of more than 500,000 Ugandan Greek Orthodox Christians, tributes have been pouring in.

“It’s really sad and a great loss for all of us who have been in contact with him. May his soul rest in peace and his memory be everlasting, ”said Archbishop Makarios of Nairobi, who is now the guardian of the Ugandan Orthodox Church, as he led the Trisagion for the fallen Archbishop on September 10. .

Charles Peter Mayiga, Katikkiro of Buganda, says Lwanga was a champion of human rights, rule of law, development and Ugandan unity. He left the legacy of an inspiring religious leader, Mayiga said.

Under Archbishop Lwanga, the Greek Orthodox Church in Uganda has grown exponentially. Throughout his leadership, Lwanga sought to address issues of spiritual growth as well as the social development of Ugandans; especially women and their children. He also fought against poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

The clergy of the Orthodox Church now consists of around 80 priests, 105 Orthodox communities, schools and a hospital. He boasts of a strong union of Orthodox mothers.

To celebrate Lwanga’s achievements, the Metropolitan was elevated on October 27, 2017 to the rank of Elder (Geronta / Yeronda) by the Holy Synod of Alexandria. This was a worthy achievement for Lwanga who grew up surrounded by the missionary work of Ugandan Orthodox pioneers.

He was born on July 18, 1945 to George William Kayonjo and Keziah Nabitaka in Ddegeya, in what is now Luweero district, just a year before Orthodox Christianity was recognized by the British colonial government.

The religion had been established in the early 1900s by Lwanga’s grandfather, Obadiah Basajjakitalo alongside Ruben Spartas Mukasa. In 1952, Lwanga began his university career in Bulemezi until the end of his secondary studies in 1964.

He left the same year for Crete, Greece, to do his ecclesiastical studies until 1968, according to his biography on the Ugandan Orthodox Christianity website. After graduating from the Ecclesiastical School, he continued his studies at the University of Athens, obtaining in 1973 a degree in philosophy.

Lwanga remained at the University of Athens until 1978, this time obtaining a degree in theology. In 1979 he returned to Uganda, serving as secretary of the Ugandan mission under Archbishop Frumentios until May 1, 1981, when he was ordained a diaconate.

In October 1981, the Bishop of Androusa (1972-1991), His Beatitude, Anastasios, arrived in Kenya to become Vicar for East Africa, following the death of Bishop Frumentios.

His Beatitude ordained Deacon Jonah Lwanga to the Holy Priesthood in 1982. In the same year, as a professor of theology, he was sent to the ecclesiastical school of Makarios III in Riruta, Nairobi, which had been inaugurated the year former.

It was also the same year that Lwanga was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite and was sent to serve as Vicar Bishop in Bukoba, Tanzania. He remained there for 10 years until he was elected by the Holy Synod as Metropolitan of Kampala and all of Uganda.

In 2019, Lwanga proudly noted that his church in Central Africa, under the aegis of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Alexandria, celebrated a century of important work in the country.

“We are celebrating the centenary of Greek Orthodoxy in Uganda. From 1919 and with the help of God, we managed to convince many indigenous Ugandans that there is a different faith called Orthodoxy,” said the metropolitan in a 2019 documentary.

Many who knew him praise the head of the Ugandan Orthodox Church for speaking out about democracy, constitutionalism, human rights violations and other social ills that continue to plague society.

Even when President Yoweri Museveni has in the past ordered major religious leaders to focus on spiritual matters, Archbishop Lwanga has remained engaged, often speaking candidly on issues affecting ordinary Ugandans.

Some members of the government even accused him of belonging to the opposition and of being an enemy of the government of the National Resistance Movement (NRM). But Lwanga remained determined.

“The job of showing them where to go is ours, it’s not his (President Museveni) and it’s the only truth that can set us free,” Lwanga said in one of his speeches. “Politicians all over the world think that everything is theirs, but they live off ordinary people’s taxes. They forget that they are our servants.”

The war that brought Museveni to power took place in the backyard of Lwanga, in the so-called Luweero Triangle. Lwanga even noted that he had contributed to the liberation struggle.

“But, I don’t see it as something that should give me a wonderful privilege.”

Lwanga repeatedly accused the heroes of the NRM’s bush warfare of arrogance and advised them to “become humble again” or else the NRM would disintegrate.

Fed up with human rights violations in the country; including arbitrary arrests and killings of civilians by state security agencies, Lwanga said in 2019 that the NRM would collapse for disrupting Uganda’s peace, progress and prosperity. He said Ugandans would continue to suffer human rights violations until the ruling party was dissolved and disbanded.

Ten years earlier, in 2008, Lwanga told The Observer newspaper that Ugandan politics was nothing more than a “game”. “There is nothing essential happening in the country. There is no strategic plan to improve the well-being or the development of our people,” he said.

“I was a bishop in Kenya for 10 years, in Tanzania for five years and now in Uganda for 11 years. But the situation in Uganda is worse than in the other two countries.

“Look at our education, it fails. I’ve heard that we have almost 50 universities. I usually invite young graduates here and they fail miserably. I think our schools and universities are just making money. They add no value to young people. people.”

“Look at our healthcare industry, it’s in shambles, the medical staff can’t even afford gloves. Even if you get sick and go to the hospital, you could die.”

“Look at the economy. We are fortunate that foreigners have entered our economy; otherwise, we would be over. Corruption has worsened. It is because our people have lost confidence in the leaders. devilish approach to problems. “

Elias Nsubuga, the lay leader of the Namungoona Orthodox Church who has worked with Jonah Lwanga since 1997 told The Independent that “Lwanga did not mince words”. “He was a person who said what he was thinking, whether in church or outside.”

“He had no intrigue. If someone, for example, brought him a rumor, he would wait until the most opportune moment when the rumor mill and the accused are together and raise the issue. He would say that this no one here told me you did it, but if it’s true, stop it. “

“He has done a lot to develop Orthodox Christianity in Uganda. He spread the gospel and he built several churches. The church is now spread across the country.

But Nsubuga quickly adds that Lwanga has also been very patient given the challenges of the church and the country.

“Land grabbing is a big problem in the Orthodox Church and in the country. He has repeatedly told us to be cautious on the issue of land disputes. He always told us to act with restraint, even in the midst of many provocations. The people behind the land are powerful people with guns who could do anything to take land. “

Nsubuga told The Independent that Lwanga’s regrets were dying before building a cathedral on nearby Lubya hill, where the church grounds are still littered with feuds.

Theodore Ssekikubo, MP for Lwemiyaga County, remembers particularly when he accompanied religious leaders to meet with President Museveni.

The president met with religious leaders to form a partnership and see how they can promote and work for development. “Despite all this, this did not stop Lwanga from highlighting the inequalities of government, human rights violations and corruption among others,” Ssekikubo said.

Joshua Kitakule, the executive secretary of the Uganda Interfaith Council, said Lwanga believes in reconciliation and national dialogue. He believed that the Ugandans could come and discuss the problems that had held back the country. “He was a voice of reason; among the Council of Presidents and our visionary, ”he said.

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