Janani Luwum

Anglican Archbishop and Martyr (1924–1977)
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Janani Luwum was the Anglican primate of Uganda. By all accounts he was a traditional prelate, not naturally suited to the role of prophet. But this was the era of General Idi Amin, whose reign of terror claimed tens of thousands of victims. Amin was famous for his paranoid wrath, and there were few who dared to provoke him.  

Though Luwum tried to steer clear of politics, by 1977 a neutral course had become impossible. After Amin circulated rumors that the Anglican bishops were plotting violence against him, Luwum issued an angry denial and a demand for proof. In early February government troops surrounded his residence and held the archbishop at gunpoint while they conducted a search for “incriminating evidence.” The bishops responded with their most outspoken denunciation of conditions in the country. If this was how an archbishop was treated, no one was safe.  

On February 16 the bishops were summoned to the presidential palace where Amin unveiled a cache of weapons supposedly confiscated from the archbishop. Eventually he dismissed them all—except for Archbishop Luwum. The next morning it was announced that the archbishop had died while trying to escape. Only some weeks later was his bullet-riddled body released. According to later testimony, Luwum was shot by Amin himself after he had refused to sign a confession. Realizing that his fate was sealed, Luwum had begun to pray, thus provoking Amin’s murderous rage.  

“Even if I have to die for my convictions, I can never lower the standards God has set me.”  

—Archbishop Janani Luwum 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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