A Christian in eastern Uganda died on July 10 from head injuries sustained in an attack by Muslim extremists the previous week, sources said.
Robert Bwenje had accompanied Assistant Pastor Ambrose Mugisha of Elim Pentecostal Church in Nyamiringa village, Kapeke Sub-County, Kiboga District, to an open-air debate about Christianity and Islam in Sirimula village, Kyankwanzi District on July 6.
Following the debate, eight Muslims including two women put their faith in Christ, said Pastor Mugisha, 25.
“This angered the Muslims, but they could not attack us because we had tight security from the police,” he said.
As the assistant pastor and Bwenje returned, Muslims from Sirimula village ambushed them while they were crossing a swamp, he said.
“We saw men dressed in Islamic attire coming from the bush in different directions and shouting ‘Allah akbar, Allah akbar [God is greater],’” Pastor Mugisha told Morning Star News.
He identified two of the assailants as Ashirafu Kasamba and Kabagambe Kadiri, who forced them to hand over Bibles and other books they were carrying, he said.
“They removed the Koran and then burned the rest of the books, including the Bibles, and then beat us with sticks,” Pastor Mugisha said. “I was able to identify Ashirafu Kasamba who cut me on the head. I then jumped into the water and managed to swim and cross to the other side.”
Passersby found him bleeding and rescued him, he said. The assailants continued assaulting Bwenje and then fled, and the passersby took both wounded Christians to a nearby clinic for first aid and then later to a hospital in Kiboga, Pastor Mugisha said.
Pastor Godfrey Ssemujju of Elim Pentecostal Church said he visited Pastor Mugisha and Bwenje in the hospital on July 10, and Bwenje died later that night at about 11 p.m. Bwenje was 28.
“Bwenje succumbed to deep head injuries, and we buried him on July 12,” Pastor Ssemujju told Morning Star News. “We reported the incident at Kiboga Central police station.”
Police arrested Kasamba and charged him with attempted murder, he said.
“The police are mounting serious searches for the other attackers,” Pastor Ssemujju said. “We need prayers for the safety of our church members and our church building, as well as quick healing of our pastor, support for the widow of the Robert Bwenje and medical bill support for Pastor Mugisha.”
The church had sent the assistant pastor to establish a church in Sirimula village, and in the course of his outreach, debates and open-air campaigns, he began to receive challenges and threats from Muslims, especially from Kasamba, Pastor Mugisha said. In April Pastor Mugisha and five Muslims who converted to Christianity had fled the area.
Muslims continued sending threatening messages to his phone, including one from Kasamba that read, “We are giving days to bring back the Muslims that you converted to Christianity. We know you are hiding them,” according to Pastor Mugisha.
Church Building Demolished
In Kiboga District on June 26, Muslim extremists from Kindeke village attacked Pastor Baingana James, demolished his church building in Rwomuriro village and threatened to kill him if he continued leading Muslims to Christ, the 48-year-old pastor said.
Pastor James said that he received a phone call the morning of June 23 from a Muslim who identified himself as Sheikh Mwesigye Ja’afari of Kindeke telling him to leave and also to return to Islam seven Muslims who had converted to Christianity after they received healing prayer.
“We therefore want to warn you to leave the place within two days, if not we are coming to destroy your home and church,” Ja’afari told him, the pastor said.
He did not take the threat seriously, but on the morning of June 26 he found a letter on his door ordering him to stop Sunday services and close the church, he said.
“I refused, because preaching Jesus Christ is my calling, and planting churches is my vision in this area,” Pastor James said.
While he and his congregation were still in their Sunday service on that day, they saw group of Muslim youths led by Ja’afari ambushing them from different directions with clubs and sticks.
“They started beating us, including mothers who were breastfeeding and youths, while shouting in four languages – English, Luganda, Swahili and Arabic – and ordering us to stop the service and leave immediately,” Pastor James told Morning Star News. “As we were struggling to go out in serious panic and tension while others were with serious injuries, they started breaking and pulling down the building.”
In March, a group of Muslims from Rwentuha village demolished the same church’s building under construction, and complaints to local leaders fell on deaf ears, he said.
“My prayer is that God help us and make a way to convert these people to Christ, and we need serious help for the victims who were cut during the attack,” Pastor James said.
The attacks were the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.
Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.