Uganda mourns a visionary leader and humble servant of God

Simon Peter Mukhama, the General Secretary of Bible Society Uganda (BSU), who died last month at the age of 53, wrote in the latest edition of the BSU newsletter about the importance of finishing well.

“Many times we give up and, in turn, miss the would-be benefits of enduring to the last moments in a faithful manner,” wrote Dr Mukhama, whose untimely death has prompted an outpouring of grief in his country.

“In our own context, for the last two years, we have been constructing a new Bible House and we are now in the last moments of ensuring we end well.”

The late Simon Peter Mukhama, former General Secretary of Bible Society Uganda.

BSU remembered its leader as “a selfless, humble servant of God” and a “visionary leader” who displayed creativity and innovation and influenced people from all walks of life.

His abiding passion was encouraging people to engage fully with the Bible in a language they could understand. Over a decade of leadership, his legacy included:

  • Launching four branches of BSU;
  • Launching six complete local language Bibles;
  • Relaunching life membership, which helped the sustainability of BSU’s work;
  • Developing Bible advocacy programs for special groups, including the blind and deaf communities, refugees, the elderly and prisoners;
  • Publishing two bilingual Bibles;
  • Starting construction of the new Bible House, which is 89 per cent complete.

According to the local Monitor newspaper, Mukhama considered the most remarkable moment of his career to be when Ugandan President Musevenu gave Pope Francis a bilingual Bible in Spanish and English during the Pontiff’s visit to Uganda in 2015. Mukhama had noticed during a visit to Rome that Pope Francis had trouble speaking English and decided to publish a bilingual Bible as an ideal gift.

Another highlight for Mukhamanh was enabling blind people to participate in church activities thanks to the Braille Bible he produced.

His creativity was demonstrated in an initiative to raise funds to construct the new Bible House. Various prominent people paid a certain amount for the privilege of handwriting a verse of the Bible in a special handwritten Bible.

Ugandan novelist Patricia K. Rutiba, who wrote the novel Knights in Kampala, was one of many who paid tribute to the small-statured leader, who leaves a wife and four children.

She described him as a “brilliant, zealous man of integrity.”

“Dr Simon Peter Mukhama, the General Secretary of Bible Society Uganda did not like titles, but he liked to serve others. He was no discriminator of rank or stature because he paid attention to Lords and Bishops with the same grace he showed to young children and people with special needs. He spoke up for the voiceless and each platform he was given was used to push a higher agenda than his personal dreams.

“Our General Secretary was driven by excellence, compassion and purpose … We all heard myriad testimonies of his effective leadership skills, his passion for kingdom business and the fact that his family members always felt loved and cherished by him.”

Rutiba said when she wrote the novel Knights in Kampala, people questioned whether there were “genuine, godly, men of integrity in Kampala.”

“It is easy to say, ‘No way, Kampala is full of selfish, greedy, godless, chauvinistic men, pure tricksters!’ … because the news is full of stories about men with no scruples. If we keep seeing only the famous but few bad examples and fail to see the good men around us, we may end up appreciating them when they are gone.

“So I will insist that the Knights are right here in Kampala, in Uganda; pray for them to have the courage to fight the status quo like Dr Simon Peter did; he always swam against the tides of corruption and mediocrity with grit and fervour. He led by example, served with an excellent spirit and hated procrastination. One of his favourite lines was ‘Start small, but start now!’”