Church Leader in Eastern Uganda Refutes News Story on Church Attack

Report sows confusion over Muslim mob’s attack on prayer meeting, he says.

Church leaders of Bukedi diocese, Uganda pray during Feb. 10 meeting in Katira. (Morning Star News)

Church leaders of Bukedi diocese, Uganda pray during Feb. 10 meeting in Katira. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A regional church leader convened an emergency meeting of pastors in eastern Uganda on Friday (Feb. 10) to refute what he called a false news story aimed at covering up a Muslim assault on a prayer meeting.

The Rev. Moses Mukenye, who oversees nine churches in the Bukedi diocese in eastern Uganda, told 45 pastors that a Jan. 19 news story by Kampala-based newspaper the Daily Monitor was “false and a fabrication.” A Morning Star News source attended the meeting.

Mukenye said that as a result of the Monitor’s false news, he had received calls from Kenya, the United Kingdom, the United States and Kampala, Uganda’s capital, questioning the facts of a Jan. 15, Islamist attack on a Katira Church of Uganda prayer meeting that led to the disappearance of a pastor and eight others.

Mukenye said a Jan. 29 Morning Star News report accurately detailed how a Muslim mob, upset by conversions to Christianity and armed with clubs and sticks, attacked the Katira Church of Uganda meeting, locked many congregation members in, beat them and raped 15 women.

The church is located in Budaka District, Iki-Iki Sub-County. When word of the Monitor story first reached Mukenye and other church leaders, they thought it may have referred to a separate incident, as there are three Church of Uganda congregations in the Katira area: Katira Church of Uganda, Kekerene Church of Uganda and Kadatumi Church of Uganda. Mukenye serves as pastor of the Iki-iki parish Church of Uganda and oversees eight other churches in Bukedi diocese.

Gradually church leaders came to realize the Monitor story was giving a false account of the Jan. 15 attack, Mukenye said. The story claimed that a throng of residents “from neighboring villages and sub-counties” had gathered after midnight to watch “born-again believers” at a Katira Church of Uganda event await the return of an unnamed prophet, and that they became violently angry at having waited so long in the cold when the alleged prophesy proved false.

“On realizing that they had been hoodwinked, the mammoth gathering turned rowdy and some people started pelting stones at the believers that destroyed windows and doors as well as the roof,” the Monitor reported, adding that Christian leaders were severely beaten. The story quoted a regional police official who asserted that the event “organizers have to take the blame for making false” prophesies.

Besides the regional police spokesman’s account in the Monitor story, the Uganda Police Force through its Twitter account asserted that the Morning Star News report was false in response to questions voiced on social media about the incident. Religious rights advocates say officials in areas of sectarian conflict commonly deny or downplay religiously motivated assaults in order to cool simmering tensions.

Such tensions did flare following the Jan. 15 attack, with Christians threatening to retaliate the following day. Mukenye, Muslims and local officials convened a meeting on Jan. 22 to quell passions, with the pastor persuading church members to forgive the assailants rather than retaliate.

An area police official attended the Jan. 22 meeting and did not dispute Mukenye’s account of the attack, but he has since been unavailable for comment. Mukenye said Morning Star News correctly reported that approximately 90 Muslims broke into the evening prayer meeting of Katira Church of Uganda at about 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 and beat them with clubs and sticks. At least one assailant was overheard saying, “Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity.”

At Friday’s (Feb. 10) meeting, the 45 diocese church leaders refused to allow a Muslim journalist to attend, accusing him of misreporting the Jan. 15 attack and acting as a spy for Islamic extremists, Mukenye said.

Morning Star News attempts to reach Daily Monitor representatives for comment on Mukenye’s accusation of false news were unsuccessful.

Mukenye said that, of those missing since the attack, only one, Patrick Mbayo, has been found.

“I feared to return to my house after the attack, because I had been receiving threatening messages in my telephone accusing me of trying to win Muslims to Christianity,” Mbayo told the gathering of Christian leaders on Friday. “Hence I feared for my life, and after two days back in my house, someone dropped an anonymous letter threating to kill me.”

Mukenye said the threat against Mbayo had been reported to police. He told Morning Star News that Katira church members are still living in great fear and that their lives are in danger.

“During the night time, some unknown people are moving around with dangerous weapons like swords and metallic objects who are suspected to be the same people who attacked the Katira church,” Mukenye said.

At the meeting on Friday, Christian leaders agreed to continue praying for one another for courage and perseverance, and they prayed for God to heal those wounded in the attack and forgive the assailants. They also prayed for the safety of their brothers and sisters who are still missing.

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