Muslim extremists in eastern Uganda are suspected in the May 3 killing of a Christian pastor hours after he engaged in a public debate about Christianity and Islam, sources said.
Pastor Thomas Chikooma, a resident of Komolo village, Pallisa town, was killed after he was invited to an open-air debate in Pallisa, where he had led 14 people, including six Muslims, to faith in Christ, relatives said.
Area Muslims had invited the independent Pentecostal church pastor to participate in the debate at a taxi park in the town where they had been holding public discussions for about a month.
After offering a defense of Christianity at the debate using the Bible and the Koran and leading the people to receive Christ, angry Muslims began shouting the jihadist slogan, “Allah Akbar,” or “Allah is greater,” compelling him to rush away from the venue with his son, relatives said.
“Two motorcycles carrying two Muslims each and dressed in Islamic attire speedily bypassed us,” his minor son told Morning Star News. “When we were 200 meters to reach our house, the two motorcycles stopped at the junction opposite Nalufenya primary school and the road near our house.”
The pastor became suspicious and told him to follow at a distance, and he saw his father speaking with the motorcyclists and two other men, his son said.
“Immediately some commotion began as the men started talking about the open-air debate, and soon one of them slapped my father,” he said. “I got scared and fled through our cassava plantation and arrived at home.”
His mother, Jessica Naikomba, arrived home an hour later, and they returned to the scene with some neighbors but did not find anyone, Naikomba said. “As we continued doing the search, we found my husband in a pool of blood, beheaded and his tongue removed,” Naikomba told Morning Star News.
Pallisa police arrived and took the body to a hospital in Pallisa for a postmortem examination. Pallisa council leaders and Salvation Ministries International bishop Denis Akora also gave statements.
Police were said to be investigating.
Relatives were in shock and tears as they mourned the loss of the pastor, a father of 11 who had planted 50 churches in eastern Uganda. Pastor Chikooma was a well-known evangelist who led St. Martin Church in Ngalwe village. Bishop Akora and another pastor were present with the mourners as the assault took place close to churches of their denomination.
“The family needs prayers, financial support and trauma counseling at this trying moment,” Bishop Akora said.
The killing 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.