Hussein, a 68-year-old Sheikh (Muslim leader) from Uganda, is facing a fatwa (death sentence) after publicly acknowledging that he has become a Christian. He had kept his faith a secret for ten years.
Hussein grew up in a Muslim home and started attending Islamic classes from the age of seven. After he finished school in 1977 he was granted a scholarship for further studies in Saudi Arabia. There he had exposure to radical Islam, which never sat well with him.
While there, he also came across reference to Isa (the Arabic translation of Jesus) in the Quran and Jesus Christ in the Bible as part of his Islamic Apologetics studies. He started questioning Islam, which worried his lecturers.
Soon after the fall of Ugandan dictator President Idi Amin Dada, Hussein lost his scholarship and was deported to Uganda. Hussein started teaching Arabic and Islam at local schools and later became the leader of one of the biggest mosques in the district. But his heart remained restless, and even after 30 years, he still wanted to find out more about Jesus.
One day in 2006, Hussein attended an open-air Christian-Muslim religious dialogue. “A pastor shared the gospel with us and explained the deity of Jesus in relation to God the Father in the Bible. My heart was filled with joy because the questions that had been plaguing my heart for so long were answered! In my excitement, I shared the message with a Muslim friend, also a sheikh, who cautioned me to never speak to him about Jesus again.
“When the Pastor invited us for a dialogue the second time, I asked to meet him separately. He agreed. During our meeting I told him I wanted to give my life to Jesus. He led me in a prayer of confession and I formally accepted Christ as my Saviour.
“I continued to attend the Muslim-Christian dialogue but did not tell any of my friends about my new faith. I kept it a secret for ten years, but in 2016 during another religious dialogue, I formally declared myself to be a Christian. The news quickly spread and I immediately started getting threats.
“In July 2017, I offered my land to build a church. When the community got wind of this, they threatened to burn the pastor’s vehicles. But God used the county leaders to prevent the mob from causing destruction.
“That same night, three young men dressed in black with their faces covered came looking for me. They told my wife they wanted Bibles and heard that they could get them from me. My wife was suspicious and did not tell them where I was. We later learned that the young men had been sent to kidnap and kill me for apostasy. I learned that a fatwa had been called out against me. I sent my wife and children to live with my in-laws while I fled to a nearby refugee camp.
“No matter what I am going through now, I know God is in control. Although my life may be in danger, I know my life is secure in God’s Hands. Although I am old and have lost everything after clan leaders took my land, I have hope. I also know that the best gift I will ever give my Muslim family and friends is the Bible. I appreciate and thank God for the pastor and fellow Christian brethren who are currently taking care of my needs. May God bless them greatly. Please Christian brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ, remember me in your prayers.”
Hussein is being cared for by a pastor who has received training in cross cultural outreach and new believer care from Open Doors.
Uganda is not on the 2018 World Watch List, but there are concerns that the situation is deteriorating after two Christians were killed and two churches were attacked by mobs in Uganda last year. Christians from Muslim backgrounds, such as Hussein, face extreme persecution in Uganda, and may be disowned by their parents, divorced by their spouse, harassed by their communities, forced to leave their homes, attacked or even killed. Muslim background believers often keep their faith a secret to avoid such treatment, as Hussein did.