In the Christian community in Uganda, two incidents of religious persecution have come to light, highlighting the growing threat to Christian evangelists in the country. These tragic occurrences not only underscore the dangers faced by those who choose to share their faith but also bring into focus the importance of religious freedom in this East African nation.
Attack on Evangelist Robert Settimba
The first incident took place in the Kawaala area of Kampala, where 27-year-old Robert Settimba, a passionate street preacher, was brutally attacked by six Muslim extremists on October 10. Shouting derogatory terms and the slogan “Allahoakbar,” the attackers assaulted Settimba as he was returning home from his evening street preaching. His injuries included severe chest pain, bruising, and swelling on various parts of his body. Settimba, who uses the Quran in his evangelization efforts, was left unconscious on the street.
Persecution Amidst Outreach
Robert Settimba’s story is one of dedication and unwavering faith. He had been actively engaged in reaching out to Muslims in Kampala, Kisenyi, Wandegeya, and Kawaala. His efforts had led to several conversions, including young men and women, students, and even some Muslim leaders. However, Settimba was shocked to discover that his message of Christ and his use of the Quran had stirred hostility among certain Muslim individuals. This incident highlights the deep-seated tensions that exist in the region.
Chilling Murder in Kasese
The second, even more harrowing incident occurred in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, located in western Uganda’s Kasese District. A Christian tour guide, Eric Alyai, along with a foreign married couple, fell victim to suspected Islamic terrorists of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on October 17. Alyai, the 40-year-old tour guide, was known for bringing tourists to Christian-owned hotels in Kasese, which played a significant role in supporting the local church.
The attackers accused the victims of supporting Christians in Uganda and disguised their intentions by posing as tourists. After opening fire on the victims, they set their vehicle ablaze, leaving a witness to recount this horrific event.
ADF and the Ongoing Threat
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has long been a cause for concern in Uganda. Originally based in the western part of the country, this extremist group has extended its reach into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the years. It’s one of the most dangerous among over 120 armed groups operating in the eastern DRC. The ADF’s involvement with the Islamic State Central Africa Province has only added to its threat level. In 2021, the U.S. government designated the ADF as a foreign terrorist organization with links to the Islamic State.
The ADF’s activities, including a recent splinter group’s involvement in the slaughter of 37 students in Mpondwe, Kasese District, have further underscored the need for greater security measures and vigilance against religious extremism.
Mourning a Loss, Remembering a Legacy
Eric Alyai’s death has left a profound impact on the Kasese community. Known for his contributions to the local church and his dedication to supporting Christian tourism in the region, he will be remembered as a man who worked tirelessly for both his faith and his livelihood.
Challenge of Religious Freedom in Uganda
Uganda’s constitution and legal framework provide for religious freedom, ensuring the right to propagate one’s faith and convert to another religion. However, incidents like these reveal that there is still much work to be done in safeguarding this freedom and protecting those who exercise it.
The recent attacks on Christian evangelists and the tragic loss of Eric Alyai underscore the critical need to protect religious freedom in Uganda. It is a fundamental human right, and the government and society at large must work together to ensure the safety and well-being of those who choose to share their faith.