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St. Charles Lwanga & his Ugandan companions: martyrs in the face of homosexuality.

The story in Maccabees of the mother and her seven sons who were burned to death for resisting a pagan emperor is a familiar one to Christians (II Maccabees 7). It tells of the faith and fortitude of this family to obeying God's laws in the face of torture and death. Such is the stuff of which martyrs are made.

And we have our own North American martyrs who were put to death after preaching God's word to the pagan natives of the New World some 360 years ago.

Similarly, Uganda has its saints, the seeds of whose martyrdom brought forth Christianity. Charles Lwanga and twenty-one other Catholic young men, including seventeen court pages between the ages of 13 and 30, plus some Anglicans, were martyred in 1886 by King Mwanga, a homosexual who preyed on the boys of his court.

In 1886, Charles Lwanga and twenty-one other young Catholic Ugandan men, including seventeen court pages between the ages of 13 and 30, were killed by the order of King Mwanga, a homosexual who preyed on the boys of his court to satisfy his lustful urgings. Led by Charles, these young martyrs resisted the king's homosexual advances, and for that, joyfully exclaimed as the fires consumed their bodies, "You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls."

St. Charles Lwanga was canonized in 1964, with his companions; he is the patron of black African youth and an inspiration for all those battling the homosexual lifestyle.


The White Fathers (known as such for the white robes they wore), established missions in central Africa in 1879 and began to have some success in converting the pagan people to Catholicism. However, attempts to rebuff them and their young charges were led by the pagan King Mwanga, who hated Christianity with a passion. For Christianity opposed homosexuality as a moral disorder and the catechized young men at the court began to understand that the king did not own their bodies, and could not force them to act in a way that was against their conscience and their new-found Catholic faith. Mwanga was having difficulty forcing himself on the boys and young men of his royal court, because they avoided him and his unnatural desires. He discovered that the baptized Christians and catechumens were being protected by a young Catholic steward named Joseph Msaka.

Mwanga had ordered his followers to kill an Anglican missionary. When Joseph protested the murder to the king, Mwanga ordered him beheaded and then had his body burned. But Mwanga did not count on Joseph proclaiming his faith for all to hear: "A Christian who gives his life for God is not afraid to die. Mwanga has condemned me without cause; but tell him I forgive him from my heart."

Charles Lwanga now took over as the instructor and leader of the courtly Christian community and continued to shield the young boys and men from the king's homosexual advances. Six months later, Mwanga discovered that a young page was receiving instruction in the Catholic faith, called the instructor to his quarters and killed him by thrusting a spear through his throat. That same night, Charles, aware of the king's rage and knowing the carnage that would result, baptized five pages, including a lively thirteen-year old page called Kizito.

The next day, upon hearing of the baptisms, an enraged Mwanga assembled all the pages and ordered the Christians to separate themselves from the rest of the court. Fifteen, all under the age of 25, did so at once, and were later joined by two others who were already under arrest, and by two soldiers. When asked if they wished to remain Christian, all of them, in turn, replied "Until death!" Mwanga then ordered the group to be marched 27 miles to their execution at Namugongo. As the group passed by the home of the White Fathers, Fr. Lourdel noted how joyful they were, as if going on a picnic, not to their execution. He remembered especially Kizito laughing and chatting merrily as he walked along the road. There was no need for the soldiers to force the young prisoners along; they cheerfully and willingly accepted their way of the cross.

Upon reaching Namugonga, the group was kept imprisoned for seven days while the executioners were assembled and the funeral pyre was built. During this time, the young prisoners prayed and sang together, said the rosary as a group, and called out catechism questions to one another, perhaps to ensure that they were indeed ready to meet God their Saviour.

Early on June 3, 1886, the feast of Our Lord's Ascension into heaven, Charles Lwanga walked serenely to the place of execution. He was roasted to death. The remaining pages were told that they would be set free if they rejected Catholicism. Not one did. They were wrapped tightly in reed mats, laid side by side, doused with fuel, and set on fire. Their executioners were astounded by the courage and faith of the martyrs, who exclaimed: "You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls." It then became clear to all those witnessing the martyrdom of these young men that they, not the licentious Mwanga, triumphed in the end.

Subsequently, the White Fathers were expelled from Uganda, but the Ugandan Catholics continued to quietly carry out their work by instructing in the faith, translating the catechism into their own native language and living as faithful Catholics. During the reign of Mwanga about 100 Christians of various denominations were martyred. When the White Fathers returned after the death of Mwanga, they found 500 Christians and 1,000 catechumens waiting for them! Praise God!

In 1964, Pope Paul VI canonized the twenty-two Ugandans-Charles Lwanga and his companions. Today there are over 4 million Catholics in Uganda, and 60% of the population is Christian.

(Sources:; Women for Faith and Family:; Catholic online:; CA July/Aug. 1994, p. 20; July/Aug. 1999, p. 10A.)

St. Charles is the patron of black African youth, and an inspiration for all those facing homosexual advances. The spiritual assistance of St. Charles and his companions as champions of purity and chastity is sorely needed in today's climate of immorality and disobedience to the Word of God, especially in Canada where we have another opportunity to revisit the so-called same-sex marriage issue in Parliament this fall. Please ask St. Charles and companions to pray for a favourable turn of events.

PRAYER FOR HELP IN COMBATTING SAME-SEX "MARRIAGE" St. Charles Lwanga and companions, you gave your lives for God, and were not afraid to die for your faith. We implore that you young martyrs, champions of purity and chastity, come to our assistance as we battle against homosexuality and impure behaviour.

Please pray that God will make us zealous in our faith, so that we may carry on the work which you began with so much suffering. Pray for our families, our religious leaders, our politicians, and civic leaders, that we may all persevere in the faith that you so willingly died for. And help those who are tempted by impurity or condone impure behaviour to turn away from the temptation, as you and your companions did, and for which you lost your lives.

St. Charles Lwanga and companions, pray for us.

Janice Glover, a retired librarian, is among the writers of News in Brief and contributes occasional articles.
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Author:Glover, Janice
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:6UGAN
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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