You’ve likely never heard the name Umar Mulinde before. It’s equally likely that now you will never forget him.
Especially as we countdown to Christmas Eve, 2012.
For it was exactly one year ago, Christmas Eve, 2011, that Pastor Mulinde’s life — as well as the lives of his dear wife, Evelyn, and their six precious children — was changed forever.
Pastor Mulinde had just concluded a Christmas Eve service in his church in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. As he and his family were getting into his car to head home to celebrate Jesus’ birthday… well, I’ll let Pastor Mulinde tell you in his own words exactly what happened:
“I was attacked by a man who… called out to me shouting ‘pastor, pastor’, and as I turned to see who he was, he poured a bucket of acid on my head which burnt part of my face. I felt fire from my head down to my toes. As I turned away from the attacker, another man poured the liquid on my back and ran away shouting (3 times) ‘Allah Akbar (god is great)’… ”
“It was so traumatizing for me and the kids,” Evelyn recalled, remembering how they had cried, knelt down and prayed together.
The reasons for the attack? A constellation of three factors, as near as I can piece his story together:
1. At the age of 20, the now 38-year-old pastor became a committed Christ-follower, no easy road for the former Muslim sheikh (teacher) and grandson of a leading imam. His strict Muslim family completely rejected him after his conversion, labeling him a defector.
2. Pastor Mulinde became an outspoken opponent of Shari’a Law becoming the law of land in Uganda. In response to his efforts, in April of last year a Fatwa was issued against his life, calling for his death.
3. As a Muslim, Umar was taught to “hate Jews and Israel.” As a Christ-follower, Pastor Mulinde become a vigorous advocate for the land of Israel and the Jewish people.
For his commitment, in one horrific moment on Christmas Eve, 2011, Pastor Mulinde lost 30% of his face, including his right eye.
(Ya know… Upon sober reflection, when thinking about our own challenges and personal pain, perhaps we don’t have it so bad. Just a thought.)
When asked about the attack and his feelings toward those who perpetrated it, Pastor Mulinde recently said this:
“The people who did this to me, they thought they are serving God. But I feel sorry for them and I forgive them, because they didn’t know what they were doing.”
Tragically, Pastor Mulinde is not alone. What happened to him is not an isolated incident. Speaking recently from Israel, where he is receiving ongoing treatments for his burns at the Sheba Medical Center, he made this heartfelt plea:
“The persecution because of the name of the Lord is real and it is happening to different people around the world…The enemy is very determined. The believers should also be determined to raise the flag and defend the name of the Lord.”
It is currently estimated that (according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide):
• There are about 35 to 40 acid burn cases registered with the Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda (ASFA) each year. It is believed that some cases go unreported due to the stigma attached;
• 55% of victims are female, and 45% are male;
• Victims tend to be between the ages of 20–39 years;
• Victims often spend five or more months in hospital, lose their employment, and face rejection by their family;
• There is no specific law against acid burns in Uganda.
More than raw statistics, cold numbers on a page, these are our dear brothers and sisters in Christ we’re talking about — people of whom the world is not worthy (Hebrews 11:38).
From the website persecution.org,
“Please keep Pastor Umar and his family in your prayers. Please pray for recovery for the pastor. The pastor and his wife have six children, the youngest being three-year-old twin boys. The pastor’s wife is currently with him in Israel. Please pray for their children as they are without their parents while their father undergoes treatment.”