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A pastor on mission to stamp out child sacrifice in Uganda

The European Union Delegation in Uganda, together with the Heads of Missions for the European Union and the Embassy of Norway, last month announced Pastor Peter Michael Sewakiryanga as one of the winners of the EU Human Rights Defenders Award 2018. Courtesy photo.

Hundreds of children are being kidnapped, rapped and murdered in cold blood every year because of the thriving child sacrifice practice in our country.

Child sacrifice and mutilation affects many families, although the exact figures and statistics are hard to come by.

This, critics urge, is due to a high level of secrecy in which this evil practice is shrouded. It is in response to this cruel and harmful practice against children that Pastor Malaika Ssewakiryanga of Kyampisi Community Church, founded Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM).

Through this Ministry, Pastor Ssewakiryanga has managed to lobby both the Ugandan government and the international community to join the campaign to end child sacrifice and is building a community campus to avoid new victims and to take care of the children who already fell victim to trafficking and abuse.

KCM started its work by first petitioning the parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development about rampant child sacrifice. Eventually, the committee came up with a report of the Sectoral Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development on a petition by the Former Students of International School of Uganda on Child Sacrifice and Ritual Murder, which was tabled before Parliament.

Ssewakiryanga has worked with security officials in various regions of the country to bring Child Sacrifice offenders to books.

As a child, Ssewakiryanga never had the fortune of a normal child raising.

“I was born to Elias Kyewalabye, who at the time was too young and was unable to take care of my mother and me. This left my mother, Anna Nabirye with no choice but to place me in the care of my maternal grandparents, John Keya and Beatrice Nabwami who already had their hands full with 20 other children.” he recently told a local news daily.

Peter and his cousins had to scrape by as their grandparents could hardly make ends meet. “We learnt to share everything from small portions of food to clothing and beddings, which were made out of mere reed,” he recalled, adding, “We had to help our old ones with the garden, which taught us hard work.”

In 2003, the then 20 year old Ssewakiryanga volunteered to give assistance to the children in the war-torn area of Gulu. “With a couple of friends, we offered to gather clothes, food and medical items for the children in Kyope Camp, one of the Internally Displaced Camps. We partnered with Julius Oyet, a pastor who shared our cause,” he told the Daily Monitor.

While at the camp, Ssewakiryanga saw many torturous things done to already emaciated children. “The pain I visualised then is more than enough to last me a lifetime, yet, unfortunately, it was only the beginning.” He holds to one incidence, which seemed to have a gruesome grasp on his memory.

“We entered into a hut, in which we saw a widow with a four-year-old son, whose guts had spilled out owing to a bullet shot into his stomach during LRA-UPDF cross fire. She told us she was waiting for him (the child) to die. I couldn’t help but weep.”

With the car they came with, they rushed the boy to Lacor hospital. “However, little could be done there so we brought him to Mulago hospital, where an operation was done. Unfortunately, it was too late to restore him fully and a day later, we lost him.”

It was in this sorrow that Ssewakiryanga got his epiphany. “I made it my life’s mission to put a smile on the faces of little ones who had witnessed and gone through unspeakable suffering.” Even when the war ceased, Ssewakiryanga’s mission was far from over.

“After the war, God led me to the community of Kyampisi in Mukono District, about 24 kilometres from the city. It was a community filled with abject poverty, backwardness and riven by witchcraft.” He described his first visit as “one that gave me an instant connection with the place”. It was there that, with a group of friends, he started hosting charity Christmas parties for children.

In early 2008, after setting a community church there, Ssewakiryanga started hearing first-hand accounts of child sacrifice from families that had lost children. “It was gripping to know that even then, justice was yet to be served to those families,” he noted.

It was then that he started garnering information on the issue and more hands to help him with the cause. “Initially, after talking to over 10 friends and three showing up for the meetings, it was disheartening. But I could not…would not lose hope. I even enlisted notable members of Parliament and religious leaders to help me.” Fate, however, had better for the selfless pastor.

In 2009, Ssewakiryanga, according to the Daily Monitor, traveled to the United Kingdom. There, while attending a church in East London, he met Kristy Jones, a professional film maker, who offered to fly to Uganda with him and make a documentary in support of his cause.

“She came with me and met the families and heard their stories first-hand, but for the immensity of sadness, she broke down, quit the coverage and boarded a flight back to England,” he recalled.

Miraculously, barely four months after, she returned in conjunction with Jubilee Campaign, an international charity, steeled enough to cover the documentary. “I recall her telling me that the urgency of this cause (against child sacrifice) was far greater than the brittle nature of her emotions. With that, she offered to do the documentary free of charge!”

By December 2009, the documentary was ready and aired on BBC news television and at a prayer campaign conference hosted by Jubilee Campaign in the UK. It was at this conference, where the former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Dr. Luke Orombi was in attendance, that he officially gave backing to the idea. From then on, Ssewakiryanga became the face against child sacrifice in Uganda.

Last month, Belgium had the honor to host the annual Human Rights Defenders award ceremony on behalf of all our EU-colleagues and Norway. It is here that Pastor Ssewakiryanga emerged among the a recipients of this prestigious award.

By UG Christian News Correspondent.

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