Muslim- Christian Interaction: The Story of Father Simeon Lourdel

Members of Inter-religious council of Uganda in a meeting

One of the earliest recorded stories of inter-faith interaction is that of Father Simeon Lourdel. On 17th February 1879 Fr Simeon Lourdel (Mapeera) and Bro. Delmas Amans arrived at Kigungu landing site in Entebbe in Wakiso District, Uganda to spread Christianity. Both were of French origin and pioneer missionaries who came to Uganda to spread Christianity.

Upon their arrival at Kigungu, Mapeera and Amans trekked on foot to Rubaga, a distance of about 40 kilometers, to seek the permission of the Kabaka (King) of Buganda (Muteesa I) to preach the Gospel in his kingdom. They were nonetheless first kept under ‘confinement’ at the home of Amir Ssekikubo, in a place called Kitebi, Rubaga division, before being given the green light to have audience with the king.

It is important to note that their host, Amir Sekikubo, was a staunch Muslim. For fourteen days the Christian missionaries were hosted under a tree, which is still existing today, and were provided with food and all other basic necessities.

The Baganda people gave the nickname ‘Mapeera’ to Father Simeon due to their difficult with the use of some of the French phonetics. Mapeera is a famous succulent fruit in Uganda.

Later on 1980, the granddaughter of Amir Sekikubo, Hajjat Nusula Namutebi, was invited, by Pope John Paul II of the Catholic Church, to the Vatican in April 1980. The Pope thanked her on behalf of the Vatican for the work which was done by his Grandfather of hosting Simeon Lourdel and his delegation. Hajjat Nusula Namutebi is currently the leader of the Scout band in Kitebi.

Also in 1980, the then Cardinal of the Catholic church of Uganda, Emmanuel Wamala, constructed a mosque, in Kitebi, next to the Catholic Church as a demonstration of co-existence of the two Faiths.

This interaction between the Muslims and Christians is demonstrated in a number of symbolic events: the brother to Amir Sekikubo, Peter Kiwanuka Nsubuga, who had not converted to Islam alongside his siblings, became the first Christian to be baptized by Father Simeon Lourdel in the same year, 1879. Upon his death, Peter Kiwanuka Nsubuga, a Christian, was buried next to a Muslim cemetery in Kitebi.

In February 2020 the Muslim and the Catholics have organized a celebration to mark the 141st anniversary of the symbolic interaction between Muslims and Christians in Uganda. Also Uganda Islamic Museum and Research Centre (UIMRC) is in the process of setting up a satellite museum at Kitebi where Father Simeon Lourdel stayed upon his arrival in Uganda.


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