Muslim relatives of a former Islamic teacher in Uganda who became a Christian set a trap for him last month, hiring killers to bury him alive in a large ant mound.
Saban Sajabi, 32, had gained repute as an itinerant sheikh, teaching Islam in various mosques and schools in eastern Uganda, before an uncle led him to faith in Christ in 2015. With family members threatening him, he left his Muslim wife and child and fled to Jinja that year.
He received further threats after marrying Sarah Birungi, a Christian, in 2016, with the warnings continuing this year. A source said one of the last text messages he received from a relative read, “If anything happens to you, be informed that we shall not help you, especially at this time of COVID-19. Our advice is for you to return to Islam, the religion of the family.”
Birungi said that Sajabi on July 14 received a telephone call from a relative saying the uncle who led him to Christ, Shadrach Hasakya, was suffering a serious illness. Sajabi had regularly visited Hasakya on holidays while growing up, and his uncle had paid for his high school education, Birungi said.
“Without wasting time, we left Jinja immediately, leaving behind our children ages 6 and 2 under the care of the house girl [maid],” she said.
Sajabi continued receiving calls from the relative as they made their way to Kabula (a newer village near Iganga, not Kabula town in western Uganda), she said. Arriving at about 8 p.m., they were warmly greeted by motorcyle taxi drivers who offered to take them to Hasakya’s home in Kabula, Birungi said. She added that Sajabi tried calling back the relative who had called him, but his phone was turned off.
They paid for one motorcyclist each to take them to the uncle’s home, and upon reaching a swamp the one carrying Sajabi said he had run out of fuel, she said. They continued for another 100 meters, pushing the motorcycle out of fuel, until they reached the house of one of Hasaka’s neighbors in Kabula, near Iganga town, Birungi said.
“Immediately two motorcycles arrived carrying three men each,” she told Morning Star News. “They started beating my husband and then dragged him to a nearby anthill, dug into it and pushed his head inside, and he breathed his last.”
During the assault, one of the assailants covered her mouth and warned her that they would also kill her if she cried for help, she said.
“What you have witnessed happening to your husband today is for the disobedience of your husband not heeding the advice given by the family that he should return to Islam, since Islam cannot tolerate infidels,” one of the assailants told her, Birungi said.
The killers later cut the neck of the body, she said.
After they released her, she ran to a house about 100 meters away and knocked on the door.
“I told them that my husband has just been butchered,” Birungi said. “They feared to step out but made an alarm, and many people arrived.”
The next morning her husband’s body was taken to a mortuary.
Birungi was hospitalized for depression and trauma for 18 days at a hospital in Jinja, she said. When she was released on Aug. 2, she learned that Sajabi’s Muslim relatives had declined to give him a funeral, and that Hasakya had buried him.
“Our pastor has been very helpful,” Birungi told Morning Star News. “Since the time I was discharged from the hospital, I have been having sleepless nights. Doctors have recommended trauma counseling for me. My two children always ask the whereabouts of their dad. Please pray for me and my two kids.”
An area source said Birungi fears she and her children could be killed.
“She vividly remembers the warnings she was given after the killing of her husband and could not hide her tears from her face as they rolled down her cheeks,” the source said.
Police have taken no action regarding the killing, the source said.
Before becoming a Christian, Sajabi had studied two years at Noor Islamic Institute in Mbale and taught in Islamic schools in Kaluba, Mayuge, Iganga and Namutumba. He put his faith in Christ after a two-day visit with his uncle in 2015 and told his brother about it upon returning home. The brother told their father, and Sajabi initially fled to his uncle’s house after seeing how furious his father and brothers were at his leaving Islam.
The gruesome assault was 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.