BIO– The fallen Metropolitan Yonah Lwanga was born in rural Degeya, British Protectorate of Uganda in 1945 to an Orthodox family. Father Obadiah Kabanda Basajakitalo was his grandfather, and thus His Eminence grew surrounded by the missionary efforts of the first Orthodox Ugandans. From 1952 to 1964, Jonah completed his general education in Bulemezi and Kyadondo, Uganda and then departed that year to study at the Ecclesiastical School of Crete, until 1968.
Immediately following graduation from the Ecclesiastical School he continued studies at the University of Athens, graduating in 1973 with a degree in Philosophy. Jonah stayed at the University of Athens until 1978, this time obtaining a degree in Theology. In 1979 Jonah headed back to Uganda, serving as secretary of the Ugandan Mission under Archbishop Frumentios (Nasios) (1972–1981) of the Archdiocese of Irinoupolis until 1981.
On May 1, 1981, he was ordained to the diaconate. In October His Beatitude Anastasios (Yannoulatos), then Bishop of Androusa (1972–1991), arrived in Kenya in order to become Vicar for East Africa, following the repose of Archbishop Frumentios. The East African Mission grew substantially during his tenure because it was one of the few occasions in Church History that a hierarch from a certain Synod (the Church of Greece) ruled another Synod’s (the Patriarchate of Alexandria) jurisdiction during its vacancy.
His Beatitude ordained Deacon Jonah to the Holy Priesthood in 1982. In the same year, as Professor of Theology, he was sent to the Ecclesiastical School of Makarios III in Riruta, Nairobi, which had been inaugurated in the previous year. During this time, he was elevated to Archimandrite.
Archimandrite Jonah worked together with Professor Andreas Tillyrides, current Archbishop of Nairobi, who helped establish the seminary since 1977. One was the counterpart of the other: Professor Andreas was a Greek missionary, layman and pupil of His Eminence Kallistos (Ware) of Dioclea in Oxford University; while Professor Jonah was an Ugandan native, consecrated clergyman and studied with the great ecclesiastical teachers of Athens.
The fall of both Atheist Albania and the Socialist Bloc in 1991 marked the end of the persecution against Orthodoxy in Albania, and Bishop Anastasios was elected the first Archbishop of Tirana since 1967, leader of the Church of Albania. Succeeded him as Vicar to East Africa Archbishop Petros of Accra (1990–1994), future Patriarch of Alexandria (1997–2004). With the help of Patriarch Parthenios III of Alexandria (1987–1996), Archbishop Petros submitted to the Holy Synod the request to establish two titular dioceses: one in Riruta for Professor Andreas, now known as Archimandrite Makarios, and another one for the Tanzanian Mission in Bukoba for Archimandrite Jonah.
The Holy Synod agreed and, on July 26, 1992, Archimandrite Jonah was elected titular Bishop of Bukoba, while Makarios was made Bishop of Riruta on the previous day. One of His Grace’s first decisions in Tanzania was joining the Syndesmos Orthodox Youth Movement together with Bishop Makarios. Bishop Jonah has always stressed the participation of children in the Church, as he was raised in the Church in his youth. Because of this, today East Africa has the largest Orthodox population of Africa.
In 1997, Archbishop Petros was elected Patriarch of Alexandria following the repose of Patriarch Parthenios. Three days after his election and under his recommendation, the Holy Synod elevated Bishop Jonah to Archbishop of Kampala and Exarch of All Uganda on March 12, 1997, and Bishop Makarios to Archbishop of Zimbabwe and Exarch of Southern Africa in 1998. Today, both hierarchs are the oldest living members of the Holy Synod in terms of episcopacy.
His Eminence succeeded Archbishop Theodoros (Nankyama) on the see of Kampala, honoring his legacy and expanding the Orthodox Faith in Uganda. During 1999, Archbishop Jonah made a lecture tour in the United States in which he described his experiences and struggles as a missionary in Uganda. He visited over 18 parishes throughout the country, learning about the way Orthodoxy spread in the United States and applying it later in Uganda.
Under Archbishop Jonah, over twenty medical facilities and a hospital have been established in Uganda, as well as an Orthodox Mother’s Union to address issues of spiritual and social development of women and their children and to fight against poverty, hunger and illiteracy. The union administers over sixty Orthodox communities in Uganda. Schools for children have also been built, including Orthodox classes on Sundays. Its children serve in the Church with minor orders. He also established a female monastery dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Uganda. (see map)
Archbishop Jonah actively speaks out against corruption in his country, and encourages his priests to do so. Archbishop Jonah attended the Council of Crete in 2016. On November 26, 2018, thanks to His Eminence’s efforts, the Holy Synod of Alexandria under His Beatitude Theodoros II established the Diocese of Gulu for the Eastern and Northern Ugandan Mission under Archbishop Jonah’s omophorion.
In 2019, the Archdiocese of Kampala celebrated the 100th anniversary since the discovery of Orthodoxy in Uganda in 1919. It was followed by a Greek parade. His Eminence considers himself and his flock as Greeks. He doesn’t see any ethnic barrier between Greek and Ugandan Orthodox, saying that both have the same culture. The Greek language is also taught in his schools, some of which were built on terrains donated by Ugandan tribal leaders.