How you can make a difference for Persecuted Christians
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
LAKE FOREST, CA (ANS – March 31, 2016) – I have often been asked by friends how we can make a difference for Persecuted Christians, and what we can learn from them.
We live in the most violent of times with groups like Islamic State conducting their barbaric “Jihad” in places like Iraq and Syria, as well as in Paris and Brussels, and Boko Haram, killing thousands of Christians in Uganda.
But I would like to share with you how a Ugandan church that had been “sentenced to be burned alive,” taught me a huge lesson, and was the spur that got me involved in wanting to make a difference in the lives of Persecuted Christians, and caused me to eventually launch the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).
For several years, I had been working in London for two of the UK’s largest circulation tabloids – the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror – as well as being a London correspondent for the National Enquirer. As time went by, I knew that something was terribly wrong in my life. I had turned my back on God, was drinking heavily, and my marriage to Norma was getting shakier by the day.
I realized that if something didn’t happen soon, I was heading for real trouble. But then, one night, while I was drunk again in the “Stab-in-the-Back” pub, a notorious Fleet Street watering hole for “hacks” – as we were called by the more respectable members of the press — when an Irish-Canadian, Ray Barnett, turned up on another “rescue mission.”
Ray had been a friend for some years, and had watched with great concern the way my life was going. And, if my drinking wasn’t bad enough, Norma and I had received several death threats. But on the fateful night, after some small talk, Ray came to the point and said, “Look at you, Dan. You are a talented writer, yet you appear to be wasting your time in writing silly stories for the tabloids.” He paused for a moment to allow his words to sink in, and then added, “Dan, I’m going to challenge you to re-commit your life to Christ, then give up your career here, and come with me to Uganda to write a book about the heroes of the faith there. You see some 300,000 believers have been murdered in Uganda by Idi Amin and his thugs, and someone needs to tell the story of what has been happening there.”
Ray then said, “Dan, if you do this, you won’t get paid and you’ll probably get shot at.” I gasped at his request, yet it somehow resonated with me, and so, there and then, I gave my life back to the Lord in that smoky pub, quit my career, and went with him to co-author the book, “Uganda Holocaust” for Zondervan.
Norma was naturally delighted with the “new” Dan, though she wasn’t so sure about me traveling to a war-torn land that had been ravaged by the horrific eight-years of misrule by Amin, who had, by now, after being routed by the Tanzanian army, fled the country and was being sheltered by his friend, Muammar Khadafy. He later apparently pulled a gun on Khadafy and was told in no uncertain terms to leave the country, and was then received by Saudi Arabia, where he was welcomed as “an Islamic Hero” and stayed there until his death on August 16, 2003 in Jeddah of multiple organ failure.
It wasn’t long until that Ray (who has since founded the African Children’s Choir) and I arrived at battle-scarred Entebbe Airport to start gathering the story of the “Uganda Holocaust.”
We soon settled into the Church of Uganda guest house on Namirembe Hill and the next morning we had our first experience of the terrible ferocity of Amin’s battle against the church. We went along to the Makerere Full Gospel Church, run by the Gospel Mission to Uganda and, as we examined the bullet holes that had riddled the ceiling and the walls, I asked a member there what had happened.
He explained that Idi Amin had banned almost all the churches of Uganda, including theirs, but they changed their name and began meeting again. He said that on April 12, 1978, during a prayer service, Amin’s wild-eyed “State Research” thugs had invaded the church and begun firing indiscriminately at the 600-strong congregation. [In fact, Idi Amin had issued a decree, which he had claimed “had come from Allah,” outlawing all religions or sects in Uganda, which left only Muslims, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Greek Orthodox Churches, allowed to meet.]
“On that great fateful day, there had been a tip off by an unknown person that we were meeting. Out of nowhere, our church was surrounded by hundreds of Idi Amin’s henchmen – the deadly State Research armed men. What was first heard was the periodic shootings outside the main church auditorium,” he explained. “Then the shooting and the shouting became much louder, clearer and closer until it fully ended into our church.
“The Church was desecrated. The men all carried machine guns, grenades, and ordered everybody to lie down flat on the ground. The church was packed to the full capacity with children, men and women. There was much shooting and shouting, as well as panic and crying in the church. Some of those in the church were badly hurt and bled profusely. “The organ and many other things in the church were shot through many times – over and over, never to be used again.”
Prayer, Praise and Bullets…
Amid the mayhem, hundreds more quickly dropped to their knees between the pews. With upraised arms they began to praise the Lord. The sturdy red brick church was filled with a cacophony of incredible sound — a combination of prayer, praise and bullets.
Joseph Nyakairu, a member of the church orchestra, raised his trumpet to his lips and blew it as loudly as he could. The Amin soldiers thought the Christians were about to counter-attack and fled the sanctuary.
In the ensuing confusion, nearly 400 people managed to slip away from the church. But at least 200 remained on their knees and continued to worship the Lord when the soldiers returned and continued spraying bullets everywhere. They took hold of Joseph’s trumpet and threw it to the ground, spraying bullets at it. Then they “executed” the organ. The congregation knew that death could be imminent and that they were under arrest!
Idi Amin’s State Research men ordered all the Christians to climb onto the backs of various parked trucks. They were taken to the State Research Bureau headquarters at Nakasero, and there, as gasoline cans and explosives surrounded them, they were mocked and told that as soon as General Mustafa Adrisi, Idi Amin’s second-in-command, signed the execution order, they would all be burned alive. Later they were taken to the dungeons to be tortured.
“The dreaded Nakasero State Research center was the place where no one, once taken in, no one had ever come out alive,” our contact continued. “Many fine, polished, innocent people often times were murdered in this place. This was also Idi Amin’s hideout. People used to be slaughtered like just mere animals. Here in the underground – so dark and gloomy – our brothers and sisters were so greatly tortured for Christ.
“Some of our brothers and sisters were ordered to be totally naked. Some stayed in blood that even their feet began to rot away. Some were ordered to smoke, while others were ordered to play sex with their sisters – which of course they all refused to do. These are simply just some of the many sufferings experienced by God’s people in those days in Idi Amin’s most horrible, dreaded dungeon-underground headquarters!
“All along in the dungeon – within Nakasero – there was so much prayers and fasting going on. A great number of saints of God were also praying and fasting too within Uganda and other parts of the free world!”
Before they were taken to the dungeons, something dramatic occurred that saved their lives. They were waiting for Major General Adrisi Mustafa, Amin’s second-in-command, was been driven back to Kampala from Jinja to sign their execution order. But he was involved in a head-on car crash and was crippled for life, and so was not able to sign the death warrant.
“I understand that he was rushed either to Cairo, or Libya for treatment and that is when we last heard of Mr. Adrisi. God Almighty arrested the whole situation to the glory of His name alone!”
Of course no Christian was burned and so the was utter confusion as what must be done to the believers. Eventually, after some days, it was decided that those Christians had to be transferred to the normal prison – the Luzira Prison.
“Here in Luzira Prison: the conditions were slightly better than the dreaded Nakasero State Research Bureau Center, and the men were separated from the women,” our contact said.
“While in prison, the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was preached and many people came to know Jesus as Savior and Lord! To God be all the glory and honor! We were ready to die for our JESUS!”
Then came the amazing act of forgiveness, as on the first Sunday morning that Ray and myself were in Kampala, we attended a Sunday-morning thanksgiving service at the church, where we watched many of those that had been sentenced to be burned alive, give thanks publicly for their liberation and then, they took turns in forgiving Idi Amin for his terrible sins, and then asked God to save the soul of their chief persecutor. Both of these acts of forgiveness were true New Testament Christianity in action.
Near the end of our life-changing trip, I was so moved, that I knelt beside my bed in the guest house, and told God that I wanted to spend the rest of my life serving Christians like those I had just met in Uganda, and be a “voice” for them. That was why I eventually started the ASSIST News Service.
After reading this, and if you would like to help us continue with this vital work of bringing you each day, stories of the present-day heroes of the faith, you can make a huge difference by joining with us with your prayers and support.
To make a gift, all you have to do is go to www.assistnews.net and then scroll down until you see DONATE, and there you go put in the figure that God has laid upon your heart. If you prefer a check, just make it out to ASSIST, and mail it to PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA.
By standing with us at this critical time, you will be saying that you “care” about our brothers and sisters who need our support more than ever before. Thank you for caring!
And please remember what the second-century Church Father, Tertullian, once said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Photo captions: 1)) A Different World: Ray Barnett (left) and Dan Wooding at Entebbe Airport in 1979. 2) Many of the 200 church members who were sentenced to be burned alive, shown with hands raised in celebration. (Photo Dan Wooding). 3) Dan Wooding with Ray Barnett on the road in Uganda. 4) Book cover. 5) Dan Wooding and Ray Barnett at Karuma Falls, Uganda, where thousands of bodies were dumped. 6) Dan Wooding recording his radio show.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books, including “Uganda Holocaust,” which he co-authored with Ray Barnett.
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