A Bugandan convert

In 1879, the White Fathers missionary order arrived in Buganda, present-day Uganda, and began to preach the Gospel. They had, for the moment, a cordial relationship with King Mutesa – but things would turn out very differently.

The following year, a young man (aged about 20) named Charles Lwanga, servant to a Bugandan chief, became interested in the Catholic missionaries and began his journey to conversion. By the time he was baptised in 1885, he had entered the service of the new king, Mwanga II.

A renowned servant

Charles started working at the king’s court in 1884: he was loved by his fellow servants and renowned by all for his brilliance at wrestling. Charles was a loyal servant to the king, but there were tensions. Mwanga would make sexual advances towards the young servants and Lwanga would try to protect them.

Also, Mwanga regarded Christianity with suspicion, as a colonial imposition. Charles would tell the king that he was ready to die for him, rather than let the “white men” take over the kingdom.

The storm soon broke. The king’s suspicions of Christian missionaries grew, and in late 1885 he massacred several, including the local Catholic bishop. Charles, who was a catechumen, went to be baptised along with some other servants.

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