Lira. For five years, two factions of Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) have been embroiled in what both sides describe as a nasty and upsetting conflict.
The same conflict has affected more than 300,000 believers as both sides continue fighting over existence and supremacy.
The termination of the services of Lira Pastorate Bishop Joel Mukalo in 2013 is believed to have ignited the breakaway of PAG Lira from PAG Uganda.
PAG Uganda has about 23 pastorates and more than 4,500 local churches.
Bishop Mukalo, who had served for five years, was accused of financial mismanagement and poor administration during his tenure, charges he has since denied.
He then opted to form a new church in 2013 which he registered with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau sparking off chaos.
Recently, dozens of believers from both sides were wounded while others remanded to prison following the violent conflict over the existence and identity.
Currently, the matter is before the High Court in Lira District.
The LC1 chairman of Town College village in Lira Town, Mr Salim Babu, says when the conflict started, he engaged the security team to ensure no bloodshed was involved.
“It is my prayer that the government intervenes to help us get a peaceful and lasting solution to this conflict,” he says.
Former Internal Affairs minister, late Gen Aronda Nyakairima, attempted to solve the issue but in vain. He instead advised the Lira faction to form a new church, according to Bishop Mukalo.
Minister without Portfolio, Mr Abdul Nadduli, was supportive of a decision by PAG Lira to break away from PAG Uganda. Bishop Mukalo noted that his church broke away because of PAG Uganda’s alleged sectarian leadership.
“Many times they tried to forcefully remove me [from office], but these pastors and leaders you see here refused. That is why I still stand before them,” he said.
Church Conflicts: over 300,000 Lira believers split church over administration
The bishop also accused PAG Uganda of grabbing Lira Pentecostal Church health unit that was constructed several years ago with support from donor missionaries. “As I talk now our brother Simon Peter Emiau (general superintendent of PAG Uganda) with his colleagues have grabbed this health unit. And this kind of leadership and coercion was not accepted to us,” he said.
However, in recent press conferences, Bishop Emiau accused Mukalo of incompetence and mismanaging church properties. He also alleged that Bishop Mukalo had registered the church’s vehicle in his name.
Speaking to our reporter in an interview, Rev Dickens Okello, the secretary of PAG Uganda, warned the Lira faction against duplication of identity.
“We registered with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau as PAG Mission and we do not want them to continue using our name,” Rev Okello told this newspaper on phone on Tuesday, defending that they are not against breakaway of Lira faction.
According to Mr Johnson Adupa, the church spokesperson, PAG Lira has 815 churches in 17 districts across the country.