A family of former Muslims in Uganda now stand for Christ, despite the growing influence of Islamists throughout the country.
Man with black cloth covering his face and holding a gun

“We have been strongly advised to be security conscious because terrorists have made bombs in a Bible-like shape. Check the Bibles, and ensure that no one enters a church without being checked. Let the checkpoints be far away from entry points; terrorists love it when people are squeezing together so they can die with many. Keep services short so people are not kept in one place for so long. Be vigilant, especially in prayers.”

Security alert from An UGANDAN CHURCH LEADER Nov. 19, 2021

As a church leader in the predominantly Christian country of Uganda, Pastor Tom never wanted to minister to former Muslims. But because of a growing trend throughout Africa, he has had to reevaluate his ministry priorities.

“[My city] has a strong Islamic presence, and many persecutions have been happening,” he said. “But I have been living in fear to challenge them. I never wanted to be involved with the new converts from Islam, fearing that the Muslims would attack me.”

Over time, Pastor Tom understood that as a faithful ambassador of Christ, he had no choice. “I have realized that it is part of the calling I received,” he said. “May the Lord help me to stand with those who are persecuted.”

Christians in Africa, like Pastor Tom, are increasingly forced to confront the trend of growing Islamic extremism. Since the early 20th century, both Christianity and Islam have spread rapidly throughout Africa. Today, an estimated 48% of Africa is Christian and more than 45% is Muslim. The majority of the remaining population follows traditional African religions.

As foreign missionaries and indigenous evangelists proclaimed the gospel in countries like Uganda, the Central African Republic, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and others, many became Christian-majority nations. And Muslim leaders in Africa took note.

On an Al Jazeera television program more than 10 years ago, the Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmad Al Katani said, “In every hour, 667 Muslims [in Africa] convert to Christianity.” For Al Katani, who heads an Islamic institution in Libya that trains Islamic scholars to propagate Islam, this was cause for alarm. He called on his fellow Muslims to “stop this dangerous Christian missionary octopus.”

Statements like Al Katani’s have contributed to growing extremism among Muslim groups across the continent.

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Group of militants with flag and weapons

Churches are being destroyed and pastors are being slaughtered. We live in suffering, but Jesus is alive!

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All Must Become Muslim

Muslims in Africa have become increasingly radicalized; they are dedicated to Islamic dominance of the government, economy, educational system and other institutions through the use of violence, if necessary. And Islamic dominance requires eliminating the Christian presence or making Christians subservient to Muslims.

Radicalization has occurred largely through the spread of Wahhabism, an Islamist ideology rooted in and financed by Saudi Arabia that espouses a fundamentalist interpretation of the Quran. Wahhabite leaders have spread the ideology by providing social services for Africa’s poor, establishing schools and promoting extremist imams.

At the same time, Islamist groups have intensified their opposition to Christians. Both al-Qaida and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) are highly active in Africa through multiple affiliated groups. These groups are well funded by sources outside Africa, including Saudi Arabia.

The radicalization of Muslim populations has affected countries where little persecution or terrorism had previously existed.

In Uganda, Islamic extremists have urged attacks on churches to thwart the growth of Christianity.

In the Central African Republic, which is about 70% Christian, a radicalized Islamic minority in the southeast has displaced more than 50,000 Christians from their homes, churches and communities.

In Tanzania, persecution against churches is common on the Islamic-majority islands, and radicalized Muslims have also tried to indoctrinate youth and target believers on the mainland. A group of Christians who had gathered for an all-night vigil at their church five years ago were attacked by masked militants armed with knives. One person was killed and another severely injured in the attack.

Front-line workers in Mozambique are inundated by the needs of Christians facing an Islamic insurgency. As the Islamists pushed their way through northern Mozambique in 2020, they beheaded and dismembered many Christians. Front-line workers continue to help thousands of Christians who fled the Islamist advance, while also assisting pastors who had to relocate their families and ministries.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which had been more than 90% Christian, a denomination that had 25 churches in one area now has only eight. The other churches in that group were closed, and six pastors were killed.

A Christian woman who was captured by an Islamist group in the eastern DRC was told by the terrorists that their purpose is to convert everyone to Islam. “We aren’t like any other religion,” they told her. According to another believer in the DRC, “If they catch you and you confess Islam, they will let you go. But if you confess Christianity, then they kill you.” Others have witnessed Islamist fighters killing people, cutting them with a knife and tossing a Bible on the wound, saying, “May your God save you.” Despite these atrocities, Christians in the DRC remain faithful to Christ. “Churches are being destroyed and pastors are being slaughtered,” a displaced pastor told a front-line worker. “We live in suffering, but Jesus is alive!”

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Islamic extremists in Uganda killed the ministry colleagues of these Christian men.

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A woman holds her young child in Tanzania, where foreign Muslim groups are working to Islamize the country by establishing Muslim schools.

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A Christian in Uganda attends a prayer meeting.

Mobilizing Churches

With great foresight, churches in Uganda have implemented a strategy to advance the gospel despite the severe persecution they face. For several years, a group of Ugandan ministers have been equipping churches by a three-pronged approach. They use apologetics and literature to teach foundational truths needed to combat radical Islam. They train church members to proclaim the gospel effectively in an Islamic context. And finally, they teach local pastors how to care for converts from Islam who have been rejected by their families.

We are standing stronger knowing that even if we are being persecuted or oppressed, God is still in control!

When believers in the eastern DRC were driven from their homes by Islamists, local pastors considered how to best guide their congregations. “As the church, we sit down and say, ‘How can we fight this? How can we stand it properly?’” one of the pastors said. Following the example in Acts 2:42, today they focus on teaching God’s Word, fellowshipping with and providing for displaced Christians, proclaiming the Good News, and prayer.

“We are mobilizing the church for these four things so that we can stand united against this oppression,” one pastor said. “That is how the church is being strengthened, and we are standing stronger knowing that even if we are being persecuted or oppressed, God is still in control!”

The call to fellowship and prayer extends to their brothers and sisters around the world as well. “When you go back,” the pastor said, “please don’t forget to pray for us, the people in suffering.”

A GENEROUS FRIEND HAS GIVEN $900,000 to help support Christians in Africa who have been displaced because of their Christian faith. This friend has challenged others, like you, to donate an additional $900,000 by midnight CST on Dec. 31 to help make twice the impact for Christians driven from their homes.

Will you help meet the challenge?

Your gift will help provide care for those who have lost everything for the sake of the gospel, and it will also help deliver Bibles and equip front-line workers who are advancing God’s kingdom amid Muslim extremism in Africa.

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Please give by midnight CST on Dec. 31, 2022 to be part of this unique challenge opportunity.