The headteacher of a private Islamic school in eastern Uganda suffered third-degree burns and was fired after staff members heard him praying as a Christian, he said.
Yusufu Mwanje led Ibunbaz Primary School in Bugiri town, Bugiri District until he lost his job after the attack on April 2.
Mwanje said a Christian businessman who supplied equipment to the school used to pray at his office in the presence of other Muslim staff members, a welcome presence especially after the pandemic hit in 2020. His prayers opened his heart to Christ, Mwanje said.
As he and the supplier had more discussions about Christianity, Mwanje put his faith in Christ earlier this year, he said.
“I wanted to keep my faith in Christ secret and began missing Friday prayers as I attended evening prayers at the church,” Mwanje told Morning Star News. “Some Muslim teachers noticed my absence and reported to the school management board.”
At a meeting with the school board on March 27, they asked Mwanje why he was not attending regular mosque prayers.
“I told them that I was praying from my house,” he said. “They accepted, but very reluctantly.”
On April 1, Mwanje said, he woke at 3 a.m. to pray in Christ’s name as he had learned from the supplier, whose name is withheld for security reasons.
“I did not know that there was someone hearing as well as recording the prayers,” he said, referring to a school staff member who lived next to his house. “I prayed till 4:30 a.m. and then prepared to go to the mosque, because I wanted to protect my job.”
When he woke early the following day and prayed again, the staff member had gathered other schoolteachers to eavesdrop on him, Mwanje said.
“As I finished the prayers at 4:45 a.m. and began preparing to go to the mosque to pray, I heard a knock at the door,” he said. “As I opened the door, there were people outside my door. They began shouting, ‘Allah akbar [the jihadist slogan, ‘God is greater’]! Allah akbar! Allah akbar! This is a kafir [infidel], this is kafir…They grabbed me and took me inside the mosque and started beating me badly and accusing me of heading a Muslim school yet I had converted to Christianity. Others shouted, ‘A liar, a liar, a liar…He deserves the death penalty.”
The attackers continued beating him, he said.
“I remembered [the supplier] telling me that in times of persecution I should call the name of Jesus,” Mwanje said. “As I mentioned the name Jesus in a low voice, one attacker said, ‘Azab Azab,’ meaning ‘punishment’ in Arabic. Immediately, two Islamic teachers named Ustaz Hamudan and Hashim Sajabbi brought two old jerry cans and lit it with fire and started burning me with it. It was too painful. I fainted.”
An elderly Islamic teacher, Alhaji Bruhan, intervened and told them not kill him, that Allah would kill him, Mwanje said.
“He instructed some to take me to the school clinic for treatment,” he said. “I then realized that Jesus had come to save me.”
At the clinic, he received a painkiller. School officials then called a meeting and fired him from his position at the school.
“I didn’t remove any property of mine, I left empty-handed,” he said.
Mwanje called the Christian supplier, who arrived at his house and took him to a church site, where he was treated for five days before transferring to Iganga Hospital. He was continuing to receive treatment there for third-degree burns on his leg and second-degree burns on his back, which is blistered and swollen.
Two of Mwanje’s children remain at the school, where along with others they are memorizing extensive passages of the Koran. He has six children between the ages of 5 and 20.
The assault was 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.