Bishop James Hannington Memorial Day in Uganda Date in the current year: October 29, 2024

Bishop James Hannington Memorial Day in Uganda Bishop James Hannington Memorial Day is a Ugandan public holiday celebrated annually on October 29. The government of Uganda established it in 2022 to honor the first Anglican bishop of East Africa.

James Hannington was born on September 3, 1847 in Sussex, England. He was home-schooled by a tutor until the age of 13 and then spent two and a half years at the Temple School in Brighton before leaving it to work for his father. At the age of 17, Hannington obtained a commission in the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteer Corps, where he rose to the rank of major.

In 1867, the Hanningtons left the Congregational Church and joined the Church of England. When Hannington turned 21, he decided to pursue a clerical career and entered the University of Oxford. He was made a deacon in 1874 and ordained priest in 1875.

Seven years later, Hannington volunteered for missionary work in East Africa upon hearing of the murder of two missionaries near Lake Victoria. He set sail for Zanzibar in May 1882 but had to return to England in 1883 due to fever and dysentery. Upon his recovery, Hannington was ordained and consecrated a bishop to serve the newly erected See of Eastern Equatorial Africa in what is now Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

He departed for Africa for the second time in January 1885. One of Hannington’s top priorities after his arrival was to find a shorter and easier road to the kingdom of Buganda through the kingdom of Busoga. What he didn’t know is that the Kabaka (king) of Buganda Mwanga II was suspicious of the Christian missionaries’ motives and considered them a threat to his rule. When Hannington and his team reached Lake Victoria on October 21, 1885, they were captured and imprisoned by Busoga chiefs under Mwanga’s orders.

Hannington’s porters were killed after spending eight days in captivity, and Hannington himself was assassinated on October 29, 1885. The last words he allegedly uttered before his death were: “Go, tell Mwanda I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.” Mwanga’s senior advisor Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, who was Roman Catholic, spoke against the assassination of Hannington. Seeing it as a sign of disrespect, Mwanga condemned Balikuddembe to death.

The executions of Hannington and Balikuddembe were followed by widespread persecution of Christians in the kingdom of Buganda. 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity were executed on Mwanga’s orders between 1885 and 1887. They are collectively known as the Uganda Martyrs. Hannington is also honored as a martyr in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church.

Hannington was one of the first Anglican missionaries in Uganda, and his missionary work helped build a foundation that gave rise to the second biggest Christian denomination in Uganda after Catholicism. To honor his contribution and his martyrdom, Hannington’s death anniversary was declared a public holiday in Uganda. Bishop James Hannington Memorial Day is marked by remembrance ceremonies, church services, and other commemorative events held throughout the country.

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