(photo: Uri Lenz)

(photo: Uri Lenz)

By Amit Lewinthal 

Originally appeared here on Israel Hayom 

These two men should never have met, but today they are close friends. They were born in two different countries at different ends of the world, but their life stories are very similar, and today, they both advocate a love for Israel.

On December 24, 2011, Christmas Eve, Rev. Omar Mulinda addressed a congregation of 300 Christians at one of Uganda's biggest churches. Mulinda is highly regarded as an impressive orator, and thousands come to hear his sermons.

Preparations were well underway to celebrate Christmas the following day, but the anticipation and joy were soon replaced with sadness when, as Mulinda recounts: "I left the church early. I was about to enter my vehicle and drive home when someone pretending to be a member of the congregation approached me and said: 'Reverend, can you help me?' I turned around, and I saw another person standing next to him, and there was a third man who closed in on me from behind whom I could not see. I realized that this was an ambush so I turned back to get into my car, but then they poured a bucket full of acid on my head. It was terrible."

Unfortunately for the 41-year-old Mulinda, this attack was not the end of the persecution against him, which ultimately made him a famous reverend in Uganda.

Mulinda was the 52nd of 54 children (!) in a highly respected Muslim family. His mother was the daughter of the great imam. He was brought up Muslim and was slated to become a clergyman. "We were taught not to associate with or become friendly with Christians or Jews," he says. But in 1990, when he was 18 years old, Mulinda met a man who preached about reading the Bible and a love for Israel. This man introduced him to the New Testament.

"I decided that this was the truth, but I could not convert to Christianity then. I would not have survived. I would have had to part ways with my, rich, respected extended family, which viewed Islam as its very foundation. But in my heart, I knew the truth," he says.

In 1993, Mulinda mustered up the courage and secretly converted to Christianity. But his secret was not kept for long -- on his very first day at church, as he was exiting the building after prayer, some of his Muslim friends spotted him and reported him to the Muslim community. At that moment, Mulinda's personal version of hell began. At first it was just his family, which renounced him. Then it was violent persecution, which peaked with the acid attack on that fateful Christmas Eve. Read More