Hassan Muwanguzi, nearly poisoned to death earlier this year in Uganda by Muslim relatives, did not expect the Muslim extremists who threatened to kill him on June 16 to murder his 12-year-old daughter.
Morningstar News Muwanguzi did not recognize the four men who appeared at his door that evening and forced their way into his home in Katira, outside Mbale in eastern Uganda, with one shouting, “Today we shall kill you – you have been a trouble-maker and are not respecting our prophet’s religion.”
A former Muslim sheikh who converted to Christianity in 2003, Muwanguzi knew that Muslims are taught to spare females in attack, especially one as young as the daughter in his sitting room. He rushed to lock himself in another room. His wife and other children were not at home. He heard the cries of his daughter, Grace Baruka, as they began strangling her, and when he came out of the room’s doorway that opened to the sitting room, they seized him, he told Morning Star News.
“They hit me with a blunt object, and I fell down,” he said. “I just woke up and saw neighbors surrounding me while wailing, saying that my daughter is in critical condition.” The neighbors had taken Grace to a clinic in Katira, but upon arrival she was declared dead, an area church leader told Morning Star News.
Muwanguzi, who lost his first wife and job as a schoolteacher shortly after his conversion, was hospitalized on March 31 in Mbale after a Muslim aunt who called a family gathering in Kadimukoli village, Budaka District, allegedly put insecticide in his tea as relatives were upset at his conversion to Christianity. He has received advanced treatment for the poisoning and has largely recovered, but the toxicity can last for months.
“I am regretting why I survived the poisoning,” he said, weeping. “God could have allowed me to die. My daughter has died, and I am now mourning for her death as well have pain all over my body.”
Muwanguzi, who remarried and has three surviving children, has fled the area with his family. “Will my wife handle all these struggles?” he said. “It was better for me to die than to be alive seeing all these problems. I feel abandoned.” Muwanguzi suspects the attackers could be related to Muslims who opposed the Christian school he started in the predominantly Muslim area.
Following his conversion in his early 20s in 2003, Muwanguzi’s family immediately kicked him out of their home, and enraged Muslims beat him, he said. His first wife left him that same year, and he lost his job as a teacher at Nankodo Islamic School, near Pallisa. Even so, he opened a Christian school, Grace International Nursery and Primary School, at Kajoko, Kibuku District, 27 kilometers (16 miles) from Mbale; the area’s population of 5,000 people is predominantly Muslim.
Incensed by his boldness, an Islamic teacher, sheikh Hassan Abdalla, in 2011 filed a false charge that Muwanguzi had “defiled” his daughter, a minor. Together with his Muslim countrymen, Abdalla filed a case at the chief magistrate’s court in Pallisa-Kalaki, and a warrant for Muwanguzi’s arrest was issued on April 1, 2011.
Muwanguzi was arrested and released on bail after nearly a month. He said the Muslims filed the false charges because he had opened the Christian school against the wishes of the Muslim majority. More than a quarter of the school’s 235 children came from Muslim homes, with the consent of their Muslim parents, he said.
Area Muslims resorted to witchcraft to try to get him to close down the school, and when that didn’t work, they tried to discourage parents from bringing their children to the school, accusing it of converting Muslim children to Christianity by teaching Christian Religious Education, he said.
When his accuser failed to appear in court on multiple occasions, the judge finally found the accusations were false and dropped the case in May 2012, he said. A few weeks after he was acquitted, the owner of the land denied having sold it to Muwanguzi, and he received a court order to close down the school. In June 2012, he said, Muslim sheikhs, imams and relatives burned down his house for having converted to Christianity.
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.