Islamic extremists in an eastern Uganda district accused a 58-year-old Christian pastor of being an “infidel, who had harmed the religion of Allah” for refusing to remove his church building. Wielding long knives and blunt objects, the men attacked the pastor in front of his daughter, who fled the scene to report the crime to police, according to reports.
Three men dressed in Islamic attire killed Pastor Stephen Lugwire while he was in his animals’ grazing fields with his 23-year-old daughter, Brenda Lugwire, in the predominantly Muslim area of Nangonde in Namutumba District on the morning of Oct. 27, Morning Star news reported.
The men had long knives and blunt objects, and one yelled that Pastor Lugwire was a “kafir,” or infidel, who had harmed the religion of Allah, his daughter was quoted as saying. One of the men yelled at her father, saying, “We have told you to remove the church which is near our mosque, but you have not heeded our message. Today you will face the wrath from Allah.”
“There and then one of the assailants hit my dad with a big stick on the head, and he fell down,” Brenda Lugwire said. Another man slashed him with a knife as she fled, terrified.
Following the murder, the suspects sought refuge at the home of a wealthy Muslim woman, identified only as Shamimu, who was subsequently arrested.
According to her relatives, the Muslim woman told the police: “The servants of Allah entered my house in order to remove the clothes which they were wearing, because they were soaked in blood, and said that they had killed an infidel, hence Allah will reward them as they were following the footsteps of their prophet. Furthermore, the pastor didn’t honor Allah by refusing to demolish the church which was close to the mosque, along with his activities of winning their members to Christianity.”
The three men remained at large at press time.
The pastor was cremated on Oct. 30. Two days later, some church members retaliated by destroying the area mosque and other Muslims’ properties. “Had it not been for the intervention of the police and local leaders, the whole village could have been on fire,” an official was quoted as saying.
While most people in Uganda are Christian, some Eastern and Central regions have higher concentrations of Muslims.
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According to the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, about 11.5% of Uganda’s population is Muslim, mostly Sunni. Armed attacks and murders of converts are not uncommon in the region.
“Radical Islam’s influence has grown steadily, and many Christians within the majority-Muslim border regions are facing severe persecution, especially those who convert from Islam,” a Voice of the Martyrs factsheet notes.
“Despite the risks, evangelical churches in Uganda have responded by reaching out to their neighbors; many churches are training leaders how to share the Gospel with Muslims and care for those who are persecuted after they become Christians.”