By Jolly Tobbias Owiny & Charles Mukiibi
GULU – A pastor of a born again church in Gulu is under police custody after authorities and the Union of Born Again Churches of Gulu accused him of sexually assaulting female members of his church.
Ronny Odur was arrested on Tuesday following testimonies by victims who say he sexually assaulted them from his church and extorted money from them before praying for them.
His business card indicates that he is ‘Prophet and bishop of the Holy Power Centre Church’ located in Cereleno.
New Vision understands that investigations into the claims are under way.
Gulu District Police Commander, Martin Okoyo, said that if evidence implicating the church leader is got, Odur will be charged with rape and sexual assault.
He was also tasked to produce his church documents.
Meanwhile, the Union of Born Again Churches of Gulu met and resolved to shut down the Holy Power Center Church and all its branches in the northern Ugandan district following increasing reports of sexual harassment and extortion of money from Christians by Pastor Odur.
Falling short of accountability
Pastor Peter King, who is the chairman of the union, said they decided to close the church due to a number of testimonies against Odur, accused of conning and sexually abusing women in his church vestry during counseling sessions.
King felt that Odur had soiled the reputation of born again churches in Gulu.
He added that besides failing to present to the union his church constitution and certificate of registration, the church leader had also insulted the community of pastors during a meeting they had convened to reprimand him.
Among the resolutions by the union was that Odur should not be allowed to talk on any radio show in Gulu and also his followers be asked to relocate to other churches.
Pastor Patrick Okecha of Victory Outreach Ministries Gulu said Odur had requested for two weeks to present to them his church constitution but did not meet that deadline.
“We don’t trust what he is doing because he cannot account for everything he does, he even failed to apologise to the union,” said Okecha.
Paying for prayer
Gulu district leader Martin Ojara Mapenduzi said he and the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) had sought the arrest of Odur after receiving reports from different locations (his church branches) over alleged abuse of his power.
A fortnight ago, the Rupiny newspaper carried a story where a section of members of the Holy Power Centre Church accused Pastor Odur of extortion and sexually molesting members of his church.
The members, most of whom spoke to New Vision on condition of anonymity, said that to get a special prayer from Odur, one had to part with not less than sh20,000.
One of them, Aketowanga Rosemary, said she was shocked when the pastor asked her to pay sh20,000 in exchange for healing.
“When I entered his prayer room, he and his assistant told me to pay sh20,000 so that I am given a white handkerchief which will heal me,” she said.
Those who could not afford the ‘prayer fee’ would not be prayed for, she added.
White handkerchiefs were used by Paul the Apostle during the early church days to heal people who were not able to walk to him. He would give his followers a handkerchief he had prayed over and ask them to place it on the sick person.
‘I was desperate’
Fearing for her relationship because of her revelation, another church member preferred anonymity. She said she was hoodwinked into having sex with Pastor Odur after he allegedly said the Holy Spirit had revealed she would have a child through him.
“When I entered his prayer room, he asked me to smear my private parts with holy oil and then said the spirit of God would enter me and I become pregnant.
“He later said I could only conceive if he slept with me. I obliged because I was desperate,” she said.
The woman has since conceived, but wonders whether the child she is carrying is her husband’s or Pastor Odur’s.
Meanwhile, Peter Lagada, an LC chairman in Pece Division, said they evicted Odur from his area last year because there had emerged numerous complaints from members that he was sleeping with young girls.
‘I can pray for stolen property’
In a past interview, Pastor Odur aka Lagumkom told New Vision he was appointed by God as a prophet, but people who have known him in the past hold a different story.
A lady who only identified herself as Jane said she first knew Odur as a cook at Unity College Lira, a claim Odur did not deny, admitting he worked as a cook at the institution from 2002 to 2005.
He is also said to have later became a news reporter for Unity FM and Voice of Lango radio stations in Lira. But authorities in both radio stations told New Vision that Odur used to present himself as a journalist and had repeatedly forged identity cards. He denied the claims.
During the interview with New Vision, Odur’s phone kept ringing. Through his receiver, one caller was overheard asking to see Odur in his (Odur’s) church because he had lost his motorcycle and wanted a prayer to recover it.
“You see all these calls, people want me to help them, I can pray for any stolen property and the thief will bring it back to you personally,” quipped the pastor at the time.