Martyrs of Uganda

Hey New York Times editors: Why ignore hellish details in story of Ugandan marytrs?

Hey New York Times editors: Why ignore hellish details in story of Ugandan marytrs?

The questions for this morning are rather simple: (a) Who were the Ugandan martyrs, (b) why were they killed and (c) why are they so symbolic for millions of Christians in the growing churches of Africa?

These questions are especially important, since Pope Francis has just visited Uganda to mark the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Catholics among the 45 believers who -- with Anglican martyrs, as well -- were tortured, beheaded, hacked to death and burned on the orders of King Mwanga II in the late 1800s.

Why did this happen? What does it have to do with the rapid growth, and the beliefs, of the church in modern Africa?

Quite a few mainstream news organizations -- The New York Times in particular -- were vague, silent or inaccurate when dealing with the answers to some of these questions. But let's start with a report from CBS and the Associated Press that included the essential details.

NAMUGONGO, Uganda -- Pope Francis on Saturday honored the Ugandan Christians who were burned alive rather than renounce their faith a century ago, urging today's Catholics to follow in their missionary zeal and spread the faith at home and abroad.
A somber Francis prayed at shrines dedicated to the 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic martyrs who were killed between 1885 and 1887 on the orders of a local king trying to thwart the influence of Christianity in his central Ugandan kingdom. According to historians, the Christians were also killed because they refused the king's sexual advances, citing the church's opposition to homosexuality.

This report also touched on the fact that the sexual politics of Africa remain strikingly complex and even tragic, as believers here wrestle with a web of colonial-era and tribal beliefs and customs, with the constant pressure of Islam on many borders.

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