It is last Christmas Eve. Pastor Umar Mulinde leaves a service at his thriving congregation, the 1,000-member Gospel Life Church International in the Ugandan capital of Kampala. He’s anxious to get home to his wife and six children. As he unlocks his car, an unknown man approaches and calls out, “Pastor! Pastor!” As Mulinde turns, a burning acid splashes across his face, and the shouts turn to “Allahu akbar!” (Allah is greater!) The assailant flees.

Some church workers rush Mulinde to the local hospital, where they treat his severe wounds the best they can. A few days later, he is flown to India, and then on January 5 he arrives at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, to be cared for by one of the world’s foremost hospitals for burn victims.

The Christian Edition visited Mulinde in his hospital room a few days later, to find out more about his condition and why he was attacked. It appears he was targeted by local Muslim extremists because he had converted from Islam, became a minister of the Gospel, and started teaching love for Israel.

The top-notch doctors at Sheba have determined that Mulinde will require a series of skin repair operations over several weeks, as well as an operation on his badly damaged right eye. They are treating him as an Israeli victim of terror, which covers his medical procedures. They hope to save his sight in the right eye and restore his appearance as best as possible. Mulinde could not ask for better care.

“I was born into a large Muslim family. I am the 52nd child of my father, who had several wives and ran two mosques,” Mulinde began. “I grew up studying Islam, but at age 18 I met some Christians who opened my eyes to the Christian faith. I soon converted.”

Mulinde explained that as a Muslim, he and his friends were taught to hate Israel and the Jews, even though they could not find Israel on a map. Even as a young Christian convert, he was hesitant about loving Israel. But as he studied the Bible, he read much about the wonderful God of Israel.

“I decided if I was going to love this God, I also had to love His people. I began teaching myself and realized the importance of supporting Israel. One key source for my Israel studies was Jerusalem Online University, based on the Web.”

Today, Mulinde’s ministry is regularly organizing pro-Israel rallies and conferences in Uganda. One such event recently drew 5,000 people to the Nakivubo football stadium in Kampala.

“I am teaching my people about Israel, along with encouraging them to visit the country. Many have developed a strong interest in Israel,” he assured.

Muslims make up only 12 percent of the Ugandan population, but they recently pushed for adopting Shari’a law in the parliament. Mulinde helped lobby against it, saying he believes in coexistence, but “wherever there is strict Shari’a rule, there is hatred of Israel and persecution of Christians.”

On the day he was attacked, Mulinde had preached at a crusade where more than 300 people came to faith in Jesus, including many Muslims. And on Monday after the attack, he was going to show a film about how the tiny nation of Israel has assisted many nations.

Since the assault, Mulinde and his wife, Evelyn, have received prayers and support from all over the world.

But he is especially grateful to the Jerusalem Online University and its director, Andrea Gottlieb, along with Illan Sharon, a Jewish acquaintance from Minnesota, who made it possible for him to come for treatments in Israel. He also is glowing about the doctors and nurses at the Sheba Medical Center.

“When you are sick, and full of wounds and pain, I believe that relationships with people also contribute to your healing. The way I am able to talk to these people here is a healing medicine for the heart. I really feel at home.”

Mulinde is already amped to return to Uganda, as soon as the doctors allow, and resume his work for the Kingdom of God and for Israel. Meanwhile, back in Uganda, the search for Mulinde’s attackers is in the national headlines every day.

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