Youth pastor killed by Muslim extremists who set church on fire in Uganda

A church bell hangs from a tree branch outside a Catholic church and a school in Odek village, Uganda.
A church bell hangs from a tree branch outside a Catholic church and a school in Odek village, Uganda. | REUTERS/JAMES AKENA

A 32-year-old youth pastor in Uganda has reportedly died due to injuries he sustained during an attack on his church by alleged Muslim extremists carrying swords, axes and sticks, according to a nonprofit persecution monitoring organization. 

Sources told Morning Star News that Emmanuel Mugabi from the Bukomero area in Kiboga district near the national capital city of Kampala was beaten during a May 20 attack and succumbed to a blood clot about a week later. 

Bishop Sserugga John Assaph of Bukomero Miracle Center Church said Mugabi lost consciousness during the attack, which occurred around 5 p.m.  Assaph claimed that the attack occured after the church had distributed Bibles and organized an evangelistic outreach. 

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The mob that killed the pastor was allegedly led by Sheikh Musa Lwanga, a resident of the village where the victim had distributed Bibles. During the attack, the extremists shouted the slogan, “Allah akbar [God is greater].”

“They pulled down the building while shouting ‘Allah akbar’ and thereafter set it on fire with petrol and rubber on timber, burning iron sheets, chairs, Bibles and other church property,” Assaph was quoted as saying.

Assaph said that he called the police after the building was set on fire. 

Bukomero Miracle Center Church building in central Uganda was destroyed on May 20, 2022.
Bukomero Miracle Center Church building in central Uganda was destroyed on May 20, 2022. | Morning Star News

“The rescue team found a man in a pool of blood,” Assaph told the nonprofit. “The police called me to identify the victim, and I found that he was my youth pastor.”

The pastor stated that the congregation had spent a "huge amount of money" to build the church and purchase equipment. 

“We are requesting well-wishers to extend a love offering for the rebuilding of our church structure so that our members may have a shelter to worship," Assaph stated. 

Local police chief Lydia Ashaba told Morning Star News that a case has been opened against the assailants. 

Emmanuel Mugabi after the assault in Bukomero, Uganda
Emmanuel Mugabi after the assault in Bukomero, Uganda | Morning Star News

Before his death, Mugabi identified Musa Serunjoji as the first person who hit him on the head with an axe. Others then struck him on the leg, chest and back.

A church elder who lives near the church identified Serunjoji and Ahmad Tulyagumanawe as part of the mob.

Assaph, his son and Associate Pastor Ivan Serunjoji were also attacked by the extremists when they were on a bridge over the Kiyanja River while returning from the burial of Mugabi’s body on May 29. They sustained injuries.

Assaph said the second attack occured after a man on the bridge stopped them. 

“We thought that maybe he needed assistance from us,” Assaph said. “As we stopped, we saw other men entering the road from the bush and started shouting, mentioning my name, ‘Bishop Sserugga! Bishop Sserugga! Kill him, kill him.’ They had long sticks and iron bars, and they started beating us.”

While most people in Uganda are Christian, some regions in the country have higher concentrations of Muslims. Armed attacks and murders of converts are not uncommon in those regions.

Bukomero is a predominantly Muslim area that is home to four large mosques. 

“The Muslims are very hostile to any new religion that comes into the community,” Assaph was quoted as saying. 

The Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project estimates that about 11.5% of Uganda’s population is Muslim, mostly Sunni, while 86.7% is Christian. 

Earlier this year, Muslim extremists reportedly beat Christian apologist Charles Kamya unconscious in the Bwaise area of Kampala. 

The 43-year-old told Morning Star News that he was driving on Jan. 29 when he was stopped by two men. After stopping the car, he claims to have been ambushed by six men in Islamic attire. 

“'You have been terrorizing our religion. Today Allah has called you, and you are going to meet him,'" Kamya recalled his attackers saying. "Some beat me badly while others cut me with some objects, and I lost a lot of blood as they pulled me out of my car and threw me out."

He said he was struck with an iron bar and left in a pool of his blood for two hours until a passerby called the police. 

The attack occured a couple days after Kamya debated Muslims at a mosque. Local churches organized another debate scheduled for the same day of the attack.

On Easter Sunday, a 26-year-old Ugandan mother was stabbed by her Muslim husband because she converted to Christianity earlier in April. The attack occured after she returned from Easter worship service on April 17. 

Another honor attack occured on April 2 when a Muslim woman in the Nawanjofu village of Butaleja district added poison to her husband’s food after he converted to Christianity days earlier. 

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