In the late hours of Friday 16 June, at least five Islamic extremist militants attacked the Lhubiriha Secondary School in Mpondwe, Uganda. The school is less than two kilometres from the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Open Doors local sources share that at least 42 people, mainly boys from the school, were killed, and others remain critically injured. Several students were abducted and forced to carry looted food supplies towards Virunga National Park, across the border in DRC.
Local contacts add that most, if not all, of the students at the school are Christians.
A neighbour reported hearing students singing gospel songs shortly before the horrific attack. The sustained attack was carried out by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamic militant group with links to so-called Islamic State (IS).
The woman who lives next to the school, Mary Masika, shared with the BBC that she heard two attackers talking at her gate towards the end of their 90-minute assault – asking if ‘the job was done’. They began shouting “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is most great’), and one of them said, “We have succeeded in destabilising Museveni’s country.” Yoweri Museveni has been Uganda’s president since 1986.
Open Doors local partners have so far been able to visit two families who lost loved ones in the attack, including a family who were already receiving Open Doors’ support.
“For years now the Christian dominated communities in north-eastern DRC have suffered immensely under the brutality of the Islamic militant ADF group with insufficient international attention to their plight,” says Jo Newhouse*, Open Doors’ spokesperson for work in sub-Saharan Africa. “The ease with which the militants crossed the border to Uganda and callously attacked some of the most vulnerable in society is a huge concern and serves as urgent alert to the agenda of the group to expand their influence and footprint.
“Security in the area has been stepped up but Open Doors partners are on the ground and ministering to affected people as far as circumstances allow. This attack only strengthens our efforts to raise awareness, prayer and support for the body of Christ that are affected by the growing violent militancy in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Uganda is number 69 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Though persecution worsened slightly in the past year, it is still currently outside of the top 50 countries where following Jesus comes with the most persecution – but would be at number 15, if countries were ranked solely by violent persecution. It is only outside the top 50 because persecution in other areas of life (e.g. from the government) is relatively low.
The school is very close to DRC, number 37 on the World Watch List, where violence against Christians is extremely high and continues to grow. The ADF is responsible for many of these attacks, and has been violently persecuting Christians in DRC for decades.
For all who are grieving to know the power of God’s loving care
For security forces and political decision makers to be granted wisdom in combatting this violence
For the abducted students to safely and quickly return home
That ADF militants would, like Paul in Acts, be convicted of the evil of their deeds, repent and choose to follow Christ.
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