Christmas in Uganda (East Africa)
A Brief History
Uganda is a country whose people, especially Christians have suffered greatly since the mid-19th century. Christian missionaries were slow in coming to Uganda, because it could take up to a year to travel from the nearest major port of Mombasa in Kenya, to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. This changed, however, when in 1902 the railroad was completed, reducing the trip to merely two days. Arab slave traders had already brought Islam to Uganda long before Christian missionaries arrived.
It was during Kabaka (king) Mutesa I’s reign that Christianity arrived in Uganda. The despotic leader of Buganda was known for his brutality towards anyone who crossed him. However, he was a very shrewd king; he was more concerned about the political power to be gained from various religions than salvation. Thus he pitted Catholic and Christian missionaries (backed by European powers) and Muslims (representing Egyptian power) at court against one another to his advantage. The presence and knowledge of Islam actually helped the spread of Christianity, as it introduced the people to a monotheistic belief system, the idea of a Holy Book and a Holy Day.
Eventually, in 1884, Uganda came under British rule thanks to the Berlin Conference. Fortunately, when Uganda finally gained its independence in 1962, it was without bloodshed. Nevertheless, the people of Uganda were to suffer more than ever before under the leadership of its most infamous and evil leader, Idi Amin Dada. Amin, who took over in 1971 via a military coup, was an unstable, uneducated, sadistic man, known as ‘The Butcher of Uganda.’ An admirer of Hitler, Amin was responsible for the slaughter of over 300,000 Ugandans, mostly Christian.
Many in the West did not take Amin seriously, considering him a buffoon. His lack of education (only 2 years of primary school), and his ineptness in governing led to a public image that did not garner respect for him in the West. Add to this ridiculous actions such as giving himself the title: "His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular." He proved, however, to be deadly serious during his 8 year despotic reign. Once again, persecution could not stamp out Christianity in Uganda, for Uganda now has the highest percentage of Christians of any African nation (88%).
As if the people of Uganda had not suffered enough already, Joseph Kony began terrorizing the northern part of Uganda in 1986, eventually forming the Lord’s Resistance Army. More than 90% of Kony’s army is made up of children abducted from their homes and forced to be soldiers. The LRA is responsible for displacing 1.8 million Ugandans, and abducting more than 30,000 children over the past 20 years. The LRA withdrew from Uganda under a cease fire agreement in 2008, but is still terrorizing the people of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Congo (where they now reside). Despite all the hardships and persecution, Ugandan Christians remain resolute in their steadfast faith in the King of kings. Therefore, it is not surprising that Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year.
English is the official language of Uganda, but Christmas is also called Seku Kulu (Lugandan); it is celebrated on December 25th. “Webale Krismasi” means Happy Christmas. For the majority of Ugandans, Christmas is a time when everyone hopes to be able to afford two things: to dress their family well for Christmas church service and to eat meat on Christmas Day. The average Ugandan family rarely eats meat, but at Christmas time it is everyone’s aspiration to do so. Often, a family or clan will all go in together on the cost of purchasing a goat, goats, or a cow. Thus, food is an important part of the celebration. Luwombo (or Oluwombo) is a favorite Christmas dish in Uganda, this is a dish made of goat, chicken, pork, beef or mushrooms cooked in banana leaves. It is said to date back to 1887, when it was first served to the Kabaka Mwanga II. Matoke (plantains) are a staple food item for Ugandans; this delicious fruit is often served steamed in banana leaves. The Christmas celebration would not be complete without both of these traditional Ugandan dishes. Like most African Christians, Ugandans love to celebrate Christmas with church attendance, singing in choirs, family parties and dancing all night.
Uganda is 83.9%Christian ---pray for the financial needs of the people of Uganda, and for those who still suffer from the effects of children lost to the LRA. Pray that Joseph Kony is brought to justice and that he will no longer be allowed to victimize the people of Africa. Pray that the LRA be disbanded and pray for spiritual and mental healing for the children forced to partake in the heinous crimes ordered by its cruel leader.