Janani Luwum


UCU clergy reflect on former Archbishop Janani Luwum

Today, February 16, 2022, marks the 45th Anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Janani Luwum. The former Archbishop is celebrated for upholding biblical truth and justice to his very last breath, at a time when standing by the truth was lethal. Jimmy Siyasa caught up with clerics serving at Uganda Christian University (UCU), to reflect on his ministry and Christian legacy:

First, he embodies what it means to have faith with conviction. That someone could die for something that they believe in; justice, biblical truth, faithfulness to the Gospel. That is what we believe he died for. Second, in the face of death at gunpoint, he did not renounce what he stood for. And, whenever we celebrate Janan Luwum, it is an invitation to reevaluate our Christian conviction. As we celebrate him, let us go and be Christians of conviction.

The Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro- UCU Chaplain
The Rev. Walter Ocen (L) interacts with the Rt. Rev. Henry Luke Orombi (R). Photo/ Jimmy Siyasa

Just like some of his contemporaries of the 20th century such as; Martin Luther King of USA, Maximilian Kolbe of Poland, Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany, and Oscar Romero of El Salvador, Janani Luwum demonstrated the need to remain a servant leader even within a life-threatening context. He advocated for social justice and confronted the totalitarian, authoritarian, and narcissistic regime of then the President of the Republic of Uganda Idi Amin Dada. His consistent and persistent love-driven approach to advocacy for the fundamental, inherent human rights and dignity of Ugandans, unfortunately, led to his brutal murder by Amin. Yet, even in his death, Janani’s legacy, service, sacrifice, dedication for the welfare of “others” remains alive, tall and firm. However, the most important question to ask is: How will his legacy affect the present leaders in Uganda and beyond, to advocate for an inclusive, equitable, just, and compassionate society that promotes collective human flourishing rather than egotistical individuals’ flourishing?

The Rev. Walter Ocen- Graduate intern at Chaplaincy attached to UCU School of Medicine

Archbishop Janan Luwum is an outstanding figure and influential leader in the Church of Africa, more so in Uganda. I refer to him as a martyr in the Church of Uganda. Luwum was a suffering servant of prayer and intercession for his Church and the world: He is a servant of peace and cried out to God for peace to reign, even under the brutality of Amin’s reign.
Only a courageous believer like Luwum could stand the face of Amin with outstanding confidence, courage, and faith in God to overcome the evil arrows of the enemy ” Satan” himself. Luwum gives us a picture of how God was ready to use Joshua to lead His people to occupy the land of Canaan (Joshua 1:6&9).
Janan is a figure of peace-making. He never was willing to reveal any persons and sacrifice them to Amin but he gave himself to face death only for others to have peace. The sermon on the mount by Jesus declares blessings for those who are peacemakers and who face persecution (Matt.5:9,10).
We Christian leaders of today should standout have such in Ministry. He teaches us to stand for the truth, and nothing but scriptural truth.
Religious leaders should be faithful to the Word and not accept any bribes or change statements for their selfish desires or due to fear of any brutality or death. Nothing whatsoever should separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:37-39). Therefore, his death on that fateful day became a seed to the Church in Uganda and worldwide, but most importantly, the start of the downfall of Amin and his evil reign. Today, Christians are still being strengthened in the Word because of his testimony.

The Rev. Capt. Esther Wabulo- Church Relations officer

The annual celebration took place at the National Ceremonial Grounds – Kololo, under the theme, Hope beyond affliction (Lamentations 3:21-24). The Most Rev Dr. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu, Archbishop of Church of Uganda will be the Main Celebrant while Rt Rev Wilson Kitara the Bishop of Kitgum Diocese will be the leader of Service. His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the President of the Republic of Uganda was the Chief Guest.


Janani Luwum was born in 1922 in Mucwini, Chua, to Eliya Okello and Aireni Aciro. His father was a convert to Christianity. Janani was sent to school and eventually became a schoolteacher.

In 1948 Janani accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour.  His conversion was so deep that he gave up teaching to join Church ministry full-time.  He became very active in the East African revival movement and became a lay reader, then a deacon, and then a priest in 1956. He taught at Buwalasi Theological College and later became its Principal. In 1969 he was consecrated bishop of Northern and in 1974 Janani Luwum became Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire (Eastern DR Congo).

Archbishop Janani Luwum was killed on February 16, 1977.

Excerpt from Church of Uganda based on the accounts of the Late James Kiefe (American Church biographer), Bp Festo Kivengere, and other recorded testimonials.