Kampala- Mourners yesterday paid tribute to Bishop Augustine Arap Yona Salimo during a funeral service at All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero in Kampala.
It was a sombre mood as various people eulogised the former bishop of Sebei Diocese describing him as a mentor, teacher, father, passionate and humble servant who worked for peace and development of the country.
Bishop Salimo, 70, the first bishop of Sebei Diocese, succumbed to intestinal obstruction and cardiac arrest on May 11 after spending three weeks in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Mengo Hospital where he was referred from Mbale.
Mr Titus Sokuton, a son of the deceased, said his father developed illness on Easter Sunday evening after hosting more than 500 people at his home and preaching at two churches.
“At the end of the celebration, my father complained of severe abdominal pain. He vomited for a few minutes and he was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction and doctors advised an emergency operation but he collapsed due to cardiac arrest.
“The doctors referred him to Mbale hospital but on reaching there, they did not have an ICU and we drove to Mengo where he was worked upon but his condition deteriorated,” Mr Sokuton said.
He said the bishop died 10 days after his 70th birthday and a day after he was discharged from ICU.
“He was our hero, a great spiritual leader, mentor and peacemaker. He loved everyone but God loved him most, that is why he is gone,” said Mr Sokuton, a nursing officer working with the Uganda People’s Defence Forces.
The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, said it was worth celebrating the life of Bishop Salimo because of his work.
“He was a dear friend and humble man, a prayerful man of God, an exemplary leader because of his love. I know he mentored so many people, including the current bishop. We need so many people who are kind and generous,” said Archbishop Ntagali, who asked the congregation to emulate the late bishop on love and peace making.
Archbishop Ntagali said the deceased was a gift from God who treated fellow clergy as brothers. He was a counsellor, teacher and worked tirelessly for the good of everything.
“Life is a struggle but there are no strong waves that can stop your purpose. Let people know you and me by our fruits just like our brother (Salimo) exhibited love, reconciliation and he was a great pillar,” he added.
“Whatever he planned, he made sure to succeed. He bought 369 acres of land for the Diocese of Sebei, increased the number of churches and the trained clergy,” said Ms Zelda Salimo, the widow. She appealed to the Sapiiy community to emulate unity and reconciliation.
The director of CMS-Africa, the Rev Can Moses Bushendich, commended the deceased for mentoring the clergy among them his successor, building a vibrant children ministry as well as promoting accountability and transparency.
“Bishop Salimo preached and modelled mindset renewal, love and humility. He occasionally brought us a flask of tea in office from his home. His hospitality for visitors and the ministry teammates is unmatched.
“He was a strong member of the East African Revival movement and participated in many revival conferences,” said the Rev Can Bushendich, revealing that the deceased recruited and grew him in the church ministry.
Ms Zelda Salimo, the widow, said her husband’s fate gave her an opportunity to know how ill-equipped the hospitals are.
“I appeal to the country to ensure that all health facilities are equipped. I saw doctors working in a very difficult situation. But here is a bishop, how about a poor person?” she wondered, suggesting that every district needs to have a referral hospital.
Ms Salimo, who pledged to work towards uplifting Kapchorwa Hospital, revealed that her husband is the fifth cleric to die in Kapchorwa in a year.