Anthony of the Nativity O.S.A. and two Augustinian companions were put to death at Mombasa (now located in Kenya) in August 1631 when they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.
Mombasa, a city within what is now the nation of Kenya, was a Portuguese colony on the eastern coast of Africa during the early part of the 17th century. Most of its citizens were Animists or Muslims, but there was a Christian community there too, comprised of both Portuguese and native people. Augustinians had been ministering in Mombasa to the local people and to the Portuguese soldiers at Fort Jesus since 1597.
In 1614 the Sultan of Mombasa and his wife were murdered and their salted heads were shipped to Goa and displayed on pikes. This was to the utter disgust of the Portuguese historian, Bocarro, who was present at this horrible incident. For this cruel action, later Christian inhabitants would pay dearly with their own lifeblood seventeen years later. Their surviving seven-year old son, Yûsuf ibn-asan (Yussuf bin Hassan), was given into the care of the Augustinian priests, who sent him to Goa for a military education and a Christian upbringing. The Viceroy in person gave him his own baptismal name, Jeronimo. Later a Christian wife from Goa was chosen for him. In 1630 Jeronimo came back to Mombasa as the sultan, when he was twenty-one years of age. He returned from Goa to Mombasa with his wife in great ceremony 'as a second Constantine' to his Muslim subjects. When, however, after some time he found out about the treacherous manner of the murder of his parents only sixteen years earlier, his entire perspective on life completely changed. He turned against the Portuguese commander of Fort Jesus, who used to insult him in front of his subjects as "a mere black man."
Jeronimo was persuaded by some of his Muslim subjects that he could not command his full power as king unless he reverted to Islam and expelled the Portuguese, who had killed his father and mother in 1614. In 1631, he renounced the Catholic Church and attacked the Portuguese soldiers at Fort Jesus. Entering Fort Jesus with a few followers on a night in August 1631, he killed the Portuguese captain and took control of the town. The invaders set fire to all of the Portuguese dwellings. About 150 Portuguese were killed, half of them children below the age of twelve.
Some Christians who had escaped death took refuge in the church. The three Augustinians there were Anthony of the Nativity O.S.A., Anthony of the Passion O.S.A. and Dominick of the Birth of Christ O.S.A. They tried futilely to convince Jeronimo to set these Christians free. But Jeronimo, or Yûsuf ibn-asan as he was called once again, then gave all the Portuguese and African Christians the choice of becoming Muslim or of being killed. Encouraged by the three Augustinian priests, the Christians chose to remain faithful to Christ. Jeronimo then ordered the three Augustinians, along with the other Christians sheltered in the church, to appear before him. He deceived the Christians, making them think that he was going to send them to the nearby island of Pate, where other Portuguese soldiers were stationed.
They were marched to the port, but instead of finding a boat there to carry them to Pate, they were met by a group of armed men. These men proceeded to attack the Christians with swords, clubs and oars. The Christians, holding fast to their faith, were martyred. Only one avoided death by renouncing Jesus Christ. The three Augustinians and 152 Portuguese lay Christians were among those slaughtered. About 150 black Christians were given the option of death or a return to the Muslim faith of their ancestors: they chose death. In addition, 400 were shipped away and sold to Hadramaut and Arabia as slaves to Muslim sea merchants because they refused to return to Islam.
The process of beatification ("beati") and canonization ("Saint") of the Martyrs of Mombasa began shortly after their death - strangely, only that of the Augustinians and the Portuguese Christians, and not of the African ones. The diocesan investigation opened in Goa in 1632. In Rome the official Augustinian Postulator of Causes is watching the progress of their cause.
For more in this website about Augustinian history in Mombasa, click here.