KAMPALA, Uganda – Islamic extremists threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a seven-day revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other.
Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before his conversion to Christianity, was attacked on Saturday night (Dec. 24) outside his Gospel Life Church International building in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers (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],’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.
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.
“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.”
His face, neck and arms bore deep black scars from the acid, and his lips were swollen.
“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.
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. In 1995 at Mbiji, he was attacked with clubs but managed to escape. In 1998 he was attacked at Kangulomila near Jinja town. In 2000 in Masaka, 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. Police saved him.
In 2001 in Busia, while addressing another meeting, a Muslim extremist narrowly missed killing him with a sword. In 1994, he survived a gun attack at Natete, near Kampala, when a bullet narrowly missed him. He said that as he fell into muddy waters, his Muslim attackers, thinking they had killed him, said, “Allah akbar.”
Because of the threats against him – in October Muslim extremists sent him text messages threatening to assassinate him – Mulinde had relocated to another area in Uganda.
He has vowed to continue fighting for the rights of the former Muslims haunted by radical Islamists.