IGANGA, MAY 28, 2019 (CISA)– Four Kenyan foot pilgrims died in a Sunday May 26 morning accident at Iganga in Uganda.
Sara Ajiambo and Evelyn Nanjala of Kisoko Parish, and Roselyn Wanjala and Godfrey Obaga of Naitiri parish both in the Catholic Diocese of Bungoma died after a vehicle rammed into about 150 pilgrims who were trekking to the Namugongo Shrine in Uganda.
Fr James Otaga of Kisoko Catholic Parish and Fr Martin Erapu of Naitiri Catholic Parish have condemned the accident that claimed four of their parishioners on pilgrimage to Namugongo for Martyrs Day Celebrations.
“This happened in a foreign country therefore we don’t know what the cause was but what we have learnt from the police in Uganda is that the driver must have made a mistake,” Fr Otaga told CISA.
Following the accident Fr Otaga has urged the faithful to learn from the incident and present suggestions on how best to improve the pilgrimage, especially on the walking hours.
“This happened very early in the morning around 5 a.m. because the pilgrims had to cover a long distance in order to attend mass at the next station,” he noted adding that “…in the future we would have to advice each other better to walk during the day to avoid such risks in the night.”
Fr Martin on his part suggests that now that Martyrs day is an annual event with pilgrims travelling from different parts of the world, the Ugandan government “…should give police escorts to pilgrims for security and to scare away those who intend to hurt them.”
“Pilgrimage is an organized event constituting of a large number of people. They follow one side of the road and when a vehicle is approaching, they flag the vehicle to slow down,” he said, puzzled at how a motorist would have failed to notice them on the road.
“I ask the pilgrims still on the road to continue their journey to Namugongo. The events and suffering are part of the ceremony and death is inevitable in such a situation. I encourage them to continue to Namugongo and pray for those who have passed on as well,” he said.
The annual June 3, Martyrs Day celebration commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Catholic and Anglican Martyrs who were burnt to death following the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887.
Twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were beatified on 6 June 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, and on October 18, 1964, Pope Paul VI canonized them Saints.
In addition to the Catholic Martyrs, there are two Catechists from Paimol: Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa who were killed in 1918. The two were beatified by John Paul II on October 20, 2002.
This year’s celebration, which will be animated by the Catholic archdiocese of Gulu under the theme, “Obey God Always and Everywhere” (Acts 4:19), is expected to attract over four million pilgrims worldwide.