Kitgum, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Norah Langa, now said to be 113 and one of the oldest living Ugandans, owes her salvation to the late Janan Luwum, the former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda. She believes that her salvation journey wouldn’t have been possible if their paths had not crossed.
Langa, a resident of Lamit Kapim Cell in Pager Division, Kitgum District and believed to also be the oldest person alive in Acholi sub-region was born into a Pagan family around 1907. She turned to Christianity in 1948 and now recounts how hesitant she was to follow Christianity until a young Janan Luwum wowed her with the Gospel.
The gospel, she says, saved her from alcoholism, adultery, jealousy and lies. Then, she took the dimension of Chosen Evangelical Revival (CER) Movement headed by Yusto Otunnu, while Luwum pursued further studies that saw him ordained a priest in the Anglican Church in 1956.
I got saved when I already had four children, I got saved to renounce my sin, the sin of Alcohol, adultery, jealousy and lies. Jesus saved me but my witness was Otunnu. Otunnu and Yosam were the first people to get saved. I stayed for nearly five years before going to them to get saved, I went to Luwum, little did I know that I was going to get saved by Luwum. Luwum was still a teacher, he had not even begun his church ministry. Since then I have been in salvation.”
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Since her salvation, Langa says she became close to Luwum including his wife Mary Luwum who passed on in August 2019 after battling adrenal cancer. Langa described Luwum as a humble, loving, caring and forgiving person.
“Luwum was a very humble person, he was caring, very forgiving and welcomed the vulnerable. We became close and particularly with his wife whom we stayed together until the time when she passed on..”
‘Gospel disturbs peace in Kitgum’
Langa says salvation at the time was not welcomed by many people in the region adding that those who moved to preach were condemned by the community, and on many occasions, locals rebuked her and even Luwum for their preaching. In the eyes of the locals, the gospel through which he often warned against the dangers of alcoholism and tobacco, was disturbing their peace.
But the man they rejected, rebuked and abused went on to become the Provincial Secretary in 1966 and in 1969 he was consecrated Bishop of Northern Uganda and later in 1974, the Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire.
“We were hated for being born again Christians in the past, we were imprisoned, I suffered ridicule from fellow women. I am happy that salvation has penetrated the region, Luwum suffered so much more than me, he died in salvation, it’s the reason he abandoned school in the past, he was equally abused and ridiculed until he died.”
Archbishop Luwum was murdered on February 16, 1977, together with the former Inspector General of Police Wilson Erinayo Wilson Oryema, and former Defence Minister Charles Oboth Ofumbi on orders of former Uganda President Idi Amin. His crime was criticizing the excesses of Idi Amin’s regime that assumed power in 1971.
The regime is seen as one of the most brutal of all African dictators in modern history, one marred by immense suffering, violence and abuses of human rights. During the time, the economy collapsed, inflation rose and thousands were brutally murdered. People survived by not trusting anyone, putting their heads down and trying to avoid being noticed.
However, the Church spoke out against the government’s brutality and unjust treatment of the people. The Anglican Focus writes that Archbishop Luwum was a frequent visitor to Idi Amin, delivering letters of protest against the arbitrary killings and disappearances. At the time, President Amin began seeing the church as an enemy of the state, and Bishop Luwum, as one of the main leaders.
On the day of his death, Janan Luwum had just delivered a note of protest to Amin against the arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances of civilians and soldiers. Later, he was accused of being an agent of the exiled former president Milton Obote, and for planning to stage a coup.
On that day, Langa says, she got a vision of Luwum telling her to kneel and pray. On this account, the ‘113-year-old’ breaks down and consoles herself before explaining how she felt…
“…Luwum spoke to me spiritually that I should kneel and pray, he told me Oboth Ofumbi, Erinayo Oryema and Okot have all been killed. He said their bodies are dripping with blood and he is the only one surviving, I was in my house alone here. He told me not to cry but I shed tears, he said he wanted to be shot and killed in the chest, he told me to kneel and pray and dedicate him to God…”
Archbishop Ochola has fond memories of Luwum
Retired Kitgum Diocese Bishop McLeod Baker Ochola fondly remembers how the former Archbishop favoured him to study at Bishop Tucker Theological College now Uganda Christian University in Mukono before getting married. He says ideally, he would have delayed commencing his studies by close to or more than a year if he wasn’t favoured by Archbishop Luwum.
Ochola also notes that a week after Luwum was killed, he had spent a night with him at his home in Kampala. Bishop Ochola remembers Luwum as a person who cared so much about people and Uganda; the Christians, the Clergy and Uganda, as a country.
“A week before Luwum was killed, I spent a night at his home in Kampala, it was a routine whenever I visited Kampala. That time, President Amin had called him to State House Entebbe but he went along with his wife so out of fear, Amin didn’t kill him. He even told me that it was how he planned it to move with his wife,” says Bishop Ochola.
“On this day, 44 years later, we remember the former school teacher, who spoke the truth to power, whose legacy has changed generations, and one who was undeterred by official censure.”
At Wii-gweng village in Mucwini Sub-county, where he was laid to rest, the local organizing committee has organized prayers to commemorate his life journey.