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Janani Luwum (1977) - Tackled a Tyrant

Janani Luwum (1977) - Tackled a Tyrant


He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:15

Janani Luwum was the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda when, in 1971, Colonel Idi Amin overthrew the elected government and went on to commit many atrocities in the country. Luwum was a gentle, cheerful man who initially did not want to protest against the injustices of the regime. But by late 1976 he felt he could no longer keep silent about the perpetration of violence and terrorism.

Luwum started to canvass other bishops, hoping to make a united protest to Amin. The dictator reacted by having the homes of Luwum and the bishops ransacked. Undeterred, they sent a formal protest to Amin on 12 February 1977, explaining that they had a duty to bear witness against injustice. On 16 February, Luwum and the bishops were summoned to a meeting with Amin and were taken to a field outside the Kampala Conference Centre, where the dictator’s guards harassed them. Luwum was singled out and accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the regime.

After a short time, the bishops were released, but Luwum was detained. At 6.30 pm Radio Uganda announced that Luwum and two others had been arrested, prompting the bishops and Luwum’s wife to attempt to make contact with the archbishop. At 9 pm it was announced that he had died of internal injuries, the result of an accident. Inquiries later gave a different story: Luwum had been shot many times. His body was never released to his family, although it was buried in Acholi, the village where he had grown up.

O Lord Jesus Christ, give us a measure of Thy Spirit that we may be enabled to obey Thy teaching to pacify anger, to take part in pity, to moderate desire, to increase love, to put away sorrow, to cast away vain-glory, not to be vindictive, not to fear death, ever trusting our spirit to immortal God, who with Thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth world without end.

Apollonius (martyred c. 185)



Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.


Photo by Samuel McGarrigle on Unsplash


Janani Luwum (1977) - Tackled a Tyrant

Originally appeared on Isaac Publishing


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