Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, who had been a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before his conversion to Christianity, was attacked on Dec. 24 outside his Gospel Life Church International building about six miles outside of Kampala.
From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him. “I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [God is greater].'”
A neighbor and church members rushed him to a hospital in the Mengo area of Kampala, and he was then transferred to International Hospital Kampala. “The burn caused by the acid is so severe that there is an urgent need for specialized treatment,” said area Christian Musa Baluku Symutsangira. “I suggest that he be flown outside the country as soon as possible. The burns seemed to spread and go very deep.”
Mulinde said Muslim extremists opposed to his conversion from Islam and his outspoken opposition of sharia (Islamic law) courts in Uganda attacked him. Mulinde, known locally and internationally for debates in which he often challenged Muslims regarding their religion, had a fatwa declared against him demanding his death by area Muslim leaders.
Visibly traumatized two days after the assault, Mulinde’s face, neck and arms bore deep black scars from the acid, and his lips were swollen. “I have to continue fighting this pain – it is too much,” Mulinde said. “My entire body is in pain. Most of the night I miss sleep.” A doctor told Compass that acid burns cover about 30 percent of his face and has cost him sight in one eye. “We are doing all we can to save his other remaining eye and to contain the acid from spreading to other parts of the body,” the doctor said.
Mulinde’ s father, Id Wasswa, was a local prayer leader or imam. “I was born into a Muslim family, and although I decided to become a Christian, I have been financially assisting many Muslims, as well as my relatives who are Muslims,” he said. “I have been receiving several threats for a long time, and this last one is the worst of all,” Mulinde said. “I have bore the marks of Jesus.” Mulinde is married and has six children ages 14, 12, 8, 6 and twins who are 3.
This was not the first attack on Mulinde. When Mulinde converted from Islam to Christianity, his family drove him away with clubs and machetes. Since then, he has suffered numerous life-threatening attacks, including having stones thrown at him after debates in 1993, 1998 and 2002. In 1994, he survived an armed attack near Kampala, when a bullet narrowly missed him. In 1995, he managed to escape death in an attack with clubs. In 1998, he was again attacked. And in 2000 in Masaka, after Muslims bribed the area district commissioner to declare Mulinde’s meetings illegal, Muslims stormed into one of the meetings and dragged him out, beating him till he lost consciousness. In 2001, a Muslim extremist narrowly missed killing him with a sword.
In May of this year, suspected Muslim extremists attacked him after a series of campaigns against Kadhi courts in Namasuba. After presenting his case against the Kadhi courts, he narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt when his vehicle was blocked less than a mile from his home. Muslim extremists jumped out of the vehicle and shot at the fleeing Mulinde, but missed him. Mulinde fought against the Kadhi courts being brought into the Ugandan constitution The Kadhi courts, if adopted, presumably would deal only with marriage and family issues for Muslims. Mulinde argued that there would be two judicial systems governing one country. “If Muslims who convert to Christianity are facing persecution from the Muslims now, then what will be their fate when the Kadhi courts are entrenched in the constitution?” he said. Mulinde has vowed to continue fighting for the rights of former Muslims haunted by radical Islamists.
Father, we praise You for miraculously sparing the life of Bishop Umar Mulinde so many times. Thank You for the incredible impact You have allowed him to have on the people of Uganda. Please work through the doctors to bring complete healing to his physical body. In the continuing spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of Ugandans, we ask that You would pour out Your Spirit on Bishop Mulinde and other believers as they share the love of Christ and the truth of Your Word. Aid the believers in Uganda in their struggle for religious freedom and a legal system out from under the control of Islam. Amen.
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