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Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze 1933-2019

On Monday 11th February 2019 we sadly lost Bishop Cyprian, the Founding Father of The Busoga Trust. There was a group of people at a London Parish Church, St Michael’s Chester Square, who felt the need to live their lives in a more real and vulnerable way. They wanted to make a link with one of the poorest parts of the world. Their enquiries came to nothing until a Ugandan family turned up one Sunday in Church, having fled for their lives. They told us about their Bishop, Cyprian Bamwoze, who needed help to achieve his vision of healthy bodies as well as healthy souls for his people, which he saw as part of the Gospel he preached. We got in touch and, when Cyprian came to preach, he said: “Don’t send us things – please come and see!” A few weeks later, in February 1982, four of us came and saw. We saw people queuing up to collect foul water for drinking and washing. It was for us an epiphany. How could our fellow human beings be subjected to this? “Please can you help us obtain clean water?” Cyprian asked. “Yes, we will do all we can, God being our helper” we replied. “In that case”, said Cyprian, “no more pilot projects, please, Africa has enough already, just a comprehensive, rural water programme for all 3 million people in my Diocese”.

That was Cyprian, a man of vision, courage and faith. He had setup a programme to help people out of poverty and sickness in 1979. In those days Amin ruled and people disappeared. Cyprian was there that Easter at the Nile Hotel in Kampala when all the Bishops were summoned by President Amin. He took Archbishop Luwum out from among them, because he had criticised Amin’s lawless behaviour, and personally shot him dead. When he recounted this event Cyprian would sometimes add: “We Bishops thought we knew a little of what the disciples must have felt that first Easter, when their leader, Jesus, was taken from them—Who would be the next?” Luwum’s murder finally awoke the world to the reality of Amin’s regime. Cyprian was there, too, when his neighbour Bishop, after visiting him, was stopped at a road block and shot. He also endured the fierce jealousies of some leading men of his own tribe and also of the Buganda people, who wanted to have a Buganda Archbishop, and felt the need to discredit the obvious candidate, Bishop Cyprian. Yet, after he had retired, all those who had attacked him came to be reconciled, often in tears. Bishop Cyprian stood by his flock, and did not even run away when his own house was ransacked and pillaged. He was convinced that Jesus cares for peoples’ bodies and minds, as well as their souls, and that was what drove him. “Does Jesus promise us life in all its fullness just to mock us?”, he would ask, when he saw so many sick and dying from perfectly preventable diseases.

It was wonderful to learn that, when he died, Cyprian was given a send off by the whole nation with full media coverage. First at the Cathedral in Kampala, then at Parliament, where the President spoke, then at his home village in Busoga, then at the home of the King of Busoga, then at Kamuli town in the north of Busoga, and, finally, at the football stadium near Jinja, where there was a 21 gun salute. Big crowds came to say their farewells and to pay their respects. At last Bishop Cyprian received the recognition which he deserved as a dedicated, faithful and inspired servant of God.

ANDREW PEARSON (Executive Director, Busoga Trust)

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