Joseph Mukasa was a brave man. In a land where a king's authority was absolute, he took his stand with King Jesus.
Anglican and Catholic missionaries came to Uganda late in the 19th century. They were well-received by King Mutesa. He did not become a Christian, however, and died unexpectedly at a young age. His son Mwanga assumed the throne.
Mwanga was cruel and wicked with little political sense. One of his early acts (January 1885) was to martyr three Protestant converts. Later that same year, his troops massacred Anglican bishop James Hannington and the Africans traveling with him.
Joseph Mukasa was a member of the royal family and a Catholic convert. Because he was a man of peaceful disposition, King Mutesa had nicknamed him "Balikuddembe" (they will have peace). After Mwange came to the throne, Mukasa served as head of the new king's two hundred page boys. 26-year old Mukasa rebuked the king for killing Hannington without giving him a hearing.
Mukasa also hid page boys when he saw that the king was attracted to them. Mwanga was furious at having his lusts thwarted. When pagan Prime Minister Katikiro suggested that Mukasa should be killed because he was leader of the young Christian community, Mwanga agreed.
On this day, November 15, 1885, guards led Mukasa to Nakivubo for execution. Just before his head was cut off, he said, "Katikiro is having me killed unjustly." He forgave him, but called on him to "change his way of life." After he was beheaded, his body was burned.
If the king expected Christianity to fade following this harsh example, he quickly learned that it would not be so. Inspired by Mukasa's heroism, the church grew rapidly. Another convert, Charles Lwanga, took Mukasa's place in the palace and acted with the same integrity. The king roasted him over a slow fire. Many other converts were murdered in the next two years, but Mukasa was the first of the Catholic martyrs in Uganda.
- Harrison, Alexina Mackay. Mackay of Uganda. Hodder, 1892.
- Various internet articlessuch as Franklyn J. Balasundaram's Martyrs in the History of Christianity (www.religion-online.org/cgi-bin/relsearchd.dll/showchapter? chapter_id=1471).
Last updated April, 2007.