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Religion and spirituality in Uganda

In the 19th Century two “world” religions; Islamic religion  and Christianity were both making significant advances in Africa. Often they were in serious competition and and so the case was in Buganda. But this should not disguise the fact that both Islam and Christianity were in many ways complementary. Both were called “diini” in contradistinction to the traditional African religious heritage. Both offered a “world view,” a universal explanation of life with all its opportunities and problems. Such systems seemed increasingly relevant to societies, like Buganda, which were being drawn into a larger world.

In this sense, Buganda, Islam, despite its rivalry, prepared the way for Christianity in a number of ways. In fact, Christianity arrived at a strategic time–when Islam had awakened among Baganda certain needs and aspirations, but before Islam had become so entrenched in society that Christianity failed to find a foothold. Islam had, for example, created a thirst for literacy, especially among the young pages (bagalagala) at court. Christianity was able to build on this interest, and with its printing presses and distribution of cheap books in the vernacular or Swahili, was able to satisfy that interest to a much greater extent than Islam was able to do.

Late coming of christianity

Christianity came late to Uganda compared with many other parts of Africa. Missionaries first arrived at the court of Kabaka Muteesa in 1877, almost a century after the missionary impetus from Europe had begun. And yet within 25 years Uganda had become one of the most successful mission fields in the whole of Africa.

Uganda is religiously diverse nation with Christianity and Islam being the most widely professed religions. According to the 2014 census, over 84% percent of the population was Christian while about 14% percent of the population adhered to Islam (mainly Sunni). In 2009 the northern and west Nile regions were dominated by Roman Catholics, and Iganga District in the east of Uganda had the highest percentage of Muslims.

National Holidays

In Uganda,Good Friday; Easter Monday;, Martyrs Day for both Anglicans and Catholics; Eid al-Fitr; Eid al-Adha; and Christmas are recognized national holidays.

The Uganda Martyrs are a group of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now part of Uganda, who were executed between November 1885 and January 1887 and  Mwanga II, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda ordered their killing in Namugongo.

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