NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A youth pastor in Uganda died on May 26 from an axe blow to the head sustained during an Islamic extremist attack on a church on May 20, sources said.
Emmanuel Mugabi sustained deep cuts on his leg and head and lost consciousness in the attack, said Bishop Sserugga John Assaph of Bukomero Miracle Center Church in Bukomero, Kiboga District, about 75 miles northwest of Kampala.
Mugabi succumbed to a blood clot from the head injuries after a week of treatment. He was 32.
After the church organized an evangelistic event and distributed Bibles in the predominantly Muslim area last month, village resident Sheikh Musa Lwanga on May 20 helped lead a Muslim mob brandishing swords, axes and sticks who attacked the church building at 5 p.m. shouting the jihadist slogan, “Allah akbar [Allah is greater],” Assaph said.
“They pulled down the building while shouting ‘Allah akbar’ and thereafter set it on fire with petrol and rubber on timber, burning ironsheets, chairs, Bibles and other church property,” Assaph told Morning Star News.
He called police who soon arrived as the Muslim extremists fled, he said. Immediately officers heard a loud wailing and screaming from the church building’s storage area.
“The rescue team found a man in a pool of blood,” Assaph told Morning Star News. “The police called me to identify the victim, and I found that he was my youth pastor.”
Before he died, Mugabi identified the first person to deliver an axe blow to his head as Musa Serunjoji, the pastor said. A church elder who lives near the church site identified two area Muslims, Serunjoji and Ahmad Tulyagumanawe, as they fled, he said.
Mugabi also said that others he could not identify struck him on the leg, chest and back. His body was buried on Sunday (May 29) in Kakunyu village, Bukomero.
The chief of the local police post, Lydia Ashaba, said officers opened a case against the assailants and would soon apprehend and charge them.
Church members were left in tears after their worship building was set ablaze and demolished, Assaph said. He requested assistance for reconstruction.
“The huge amount of money we spent on building the church and the purchase of church equipment is a great loss to us,” he said. “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.”
Assault after Burial
Assaph and Associate Pastor Ivan Serunjoji sustained injuries when they were attacked by Muslim extremists while returning from the burial of Mugabi’s body on Sunday (May 29), the bishop said.
Assaph, his son and Serunjoji were stopped by a man on a bridge over the Kiyanja River at about 8 p.m., Assaph said.
“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.”
His son and Serunjoji managed to seize a stick from one of them to try to defend themselves, he said. Assaph identified three of the assailants as Musa Serunjoji, Tulyagumanawe and Faizo Ankunda, all involved in the burning and destruction of the church building, he said.
Soon they saw the lights of a car of an elder from a neighboring church, and the attackers fled. Tulyagumanawe jumped into the river and died, Assaph said. Tulyagumanawe had helped lead the destruction of the church building, he said.
The church elder who arrived was rushing his wife to the Bukomero Health Center to give birth, and en route he took Assaph and Ivan Serunjoji to a nearby clinic. The two pastors received treatment and remained under medical observation with head, hand, leg and back injuries.
The police recovered the body of Tulyagumanawe from the river on Monday morning (May 30). They were still searching for the other assailants.
Bukomero is a predominantly Muslim community with four large mosques.
“The Muslims are very hostile to any new religion that comes into the community,” Assaph said.
The attacks were the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.
Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.