PALLISA, Uganda (Morning Star News) – The widow of a Christian shot to death by suspected hard-line Muslims in eastern Uganda fears for her life after receiving several death threats, she said.
Agnes Nasubuga Nura, 28, said Muslim extremists killed her husband, Richard Lebon Suleiman, on Feb. 15 in Budaka, Pallisa District, 193 kilometers (119 miles) east of Kampala. Among the threatening text messages she has recently received, she said, one read, “If you continue following the enemies of Islam, then you are risking your life. Soon your children will be orphans.”
On the evening he was killed, Suleiman was stopped by men near a food shop where he had bought items at about 7:30 p.m. on his way back home to Kabuna village. A nearby resident said he heard the attackers saying, “Today we have found him. He deserves to die.”
“I sometimes miss sleep, as my husband was brutally murdered,” Nura told Morning Star News. “The attackers shot him in the forehead. At times my memory flashes back, and I find myself weeping.”
With sobs interrupting her narrative, Nura said she and her five children, who range in age from 1 to 9, have been devastated by the loss of her husband. They live in a small house of thatched grass. She is struggling to meet basic needs, lacks enough income to send her children to school, and they need trauma counseling, she said.
The family left Islam two years ago, when they lived in Jami village, near Mbale.
“Since the time we joined Christianity, Muslims continued issuing threatening messages to us, insisting that we should return back to Islam, and if not, then they were going to kill us,” she said. “So we decided to move to Budaka town and rented a house there.”
Suleiman ran a business in Budaka, but Muslims there began monitoring his movements, and the family was forced to move to Kabuna village, Nura said.
“You need to get out of the Budaka, because the Muslims are scheming something bad for the family,” a pastor in Budaka told him, she said.
Young Christian’s Battle
Also in Pallisa District, a 21-year-old Christian has been battling bitterness and sorrow due to his Muslim family’s rejection.
When Patrick Opadi left Islam seven years ago, his father in Kangado village, Butebo sub-county, immediately disowned him. The boy went to live with his Christian grandmother in Pallisa.
He later went to Sironko to attend high school, staying at his uncle’s place at Kajumbala, in Bukeda District near Soroti, four kilometers from the high school. In his second year of high school he started a Christian Union Fellowship of 12 students, which grew to 28 members by his fourth year.
He was honored as an outstanding Christian “school pastor” in November 2013. This angered Islamic students, as the institution was founded as a Muslim school, and they threatened to kill him, he said. A Christian teacher locked him inside the school office until police could arrive to rescue him.
Overcome with hopelessness, that year he tried to drown himself in a river, he said, but the sudden onset of lightning and thunder instilled a fear in him that interrupted the attempted suicide. Before he could finish high school, he left to stay with a church pastor for four months, and then returned to his grandmother in Pallisa. Thinking the passage of five years might have softened his family’s attitude toward him, he said, he tried to return home.
“‘We do not want you here,’” his father told him, he said. “My father threatened to kill me, so I went back to my grandmother.”
When his grandmother died in 2014, he took shelter at an undisclosed church, and in early January the fellowship recommended he enroll at Bungoma Bible School. Upon hearing of this, his family threatened to destroy the fellowship’s church building.
Opadi tried to return home and reconcile with his family, but his father torched his room on Jan. 15, he said. He managed to escape when his sister yelled, “Patrick get out of the house – the house is burning,” he said.
“My father started chasing me with a knife,” Opadi said. “As I ran, he threw the knife at me, and it hit a banana plant. I then ran up to the church.”
In February, he said, his two brothers stabbed his right hand.
“My brothers got hold of me and began beating me up,” Opadi told Morning Star News. “One of my brothers took a knife and knifed my right hand. I then managed to escape for my life back to the church, and there I met a pastor who suggested that I go with him to [another, undisclosed] village, which I accepted.”
The loneliness, sorrow and bitterness continue, and at times he feels his life has come to a crashing halt, but Opadi said he is encouraged by the work of God that he has seen since arriving at the church.
“When I joined, the church was worshipping under a mango tree with 13 members,” he said. “Soon the church grew and began putting up a church structure, and it now has 70 members.”