URGENT UPDATE TO POST added on January 26, 2010 “Human Rights Watch is calling on Uganda to promptly investigate the murder of David Kato, a prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activist working for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). A man entered David’s home today and assaulted him with a hammer. He died on the way to hospital. David was on the front cover of the Rolling Stone tabloid with the headline “hang them.” David was one of the plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit against the Rolling Stone.”
PLEASE also go to an earlier and now updated blogpost of mine called “On Scott Lively of the “Kill the Gays Bill” (in) Fame” where I expand on who Mr. Lively is, tell a bit about my ongoing year long email exchanges with him and include a public plea to him. I know he reads my blog. Your comments are welcome, perhaps he will read those too. Hopefully.
And, there’s more . . . in conversation with Frank Mugisha, SMUG, he reiterated on January 29th what IS needed in Uganda, now, missionaries, the right kind this time, on the ground. His request is in the post “A Plea for Missionaries in Uganda NOW”
One of those “it never should have happened”, “I can’t believed that happened” things is brewing in Uganda. Now. Did you watch the movie Hotel Rwanda or the documentary Shake Hands With the Devil retelling the story of the genocide of over 800,000 Tutsi people in 100 days? The unbelievable did happen in Rwanda and could now well erupt in Uganda.
Hang in with me as I put the current events of Uganda today into context and perspective and comparison with Rwanda. Although ethnically motivated, the 1994 Rwandan Hutu slaughter of Tutsis, took place in a country that was 90% Christian at the time. One can wonder rightly, how can people who identify as Christians be involved in or allow genocide in their midst? Christianity, which has the overarching message of love and justice, is to oppose and resist social evils. In the case of the Rwandan genocide, the church was fairly silent but the people themselves, many of whom were Christians, actively took part in the murders and the betrayals against the Tutsi minority. The long standing distrust of one group for the other, the distinct minority status of the Tutsis and media fueled hate speech all worked together within a population with a literacy rate of about 70% to produce the Tutsi genocide.
And now . . . . we have Uganda. There are similarities to the Rwandan incident and even more contributing factors that could create a ripe situation for another genocide. Uganda is far away and populated by about 33 million people in a country smaller than Oregon. Religiously, it is 84% Christian, split equally between Roman Catholics and Protestant. They are one of the poorest countries in the world with a literacy rate of 68%; we do not import anything of note or need any resources from Uganda; most of us could never even find it on a map. So, we tend to ignore countries like Uganda.
But we can’t, or we should not. In February 2011, a bill is up for a vote in the Ugandan Parliament that would endanger and possibly give license to kill over 1.5 million people. Shocking. Will you still be shocked and concerned if the target group is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (GLBTI) people? We haven’t yet given full equality to GLBT people in our own country, but this is beyond withholding of freedoms, this is genocide. Think it cannot happen? This is the current volatile mix: a minority group which has been subjected to longstanding societal distrust and discrimination, a now exponentially increased homophobia from the church combined with media fueled hate speech. Recall, the Rwandan hatred did not have the church support component. And, if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passes in February 2011, government sanctioned hatred will be added to the already explosive situation.
Why bother with GLBTI people 7,000 miles away when we Americans do not extend equality at home? This is why—representatives of the Christian church from the United States are largely responsible for this crisis by injecting a message of hate into the Ugandan churches. This message then overflowed to the government. Right now, the homophobia in Uganda is church driven. Church driven. The institution that is required to love and model Jesus is targeting people for imprisonment and destruction. Does that shock you into caring? The genocide in Rwanda was ethnically motivated. The church had no key role except that it was fairly silent and could not stop the murders. The crisis in Uganda is all that Rwanda was (minority group, media push) and now we add the church as an active agent in the extreme homophobia. Do you think there is any hope that genocide will not occur if the “Kill the Gays Bill” passes?
This is a brief background to the situation. (A more detailed time line can be found on the Box Turtle Bulletin site.) In February 2009, Exodus International Board member Don Schmierer, Defend the Family and Abiding Truth President, Scott Lively and Caleb Brundidge, an ex-gay counselor from the International Healing Foundation (IHF) were invited by Stephen Langa of Uganda’s Family Life Network (FLN) to speak and teach at an ex-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda. Schmeirer later stated his participation was unofficial as a Exodus leader, but still “blessed’ by Exodus (it took eight months for Exodus to publish an official statement on the legislation called “Kill the Gays Bill” that would evolve from that conference). Brundidge brought over materials from Richard Cohen (who says changing from homosexual to heterosexual orientation is possible even when every reputable medical, psychological and psychiatric association disagrees, but there sure is good money in it!) IHF resources were used by FLN . Scott Lively talked for three days exploiting Ugandan fears with his outlandish lies: gays are child molesters, they recruit children, they were Hitler’s henchmen in the Holocaust because gay men “are exceptionally brutal and savage”, their intention is to take over all facets of society and “turn the whole world gay”, they are going to destroy the family and of course, and of course, the ever popular, you can change to straight fallacy.
Within one month of the FLN anti-gay conference, radio media spurred on by FLN was calling for mass arrests of gay/trans people. The following month, in April 2009, David Bahati, Ugandan Parliament member had submitted a bill to strengthen Uganda’s law against homosexuality to include arrest, death and mandatory exposure by friends and family of gay/trans people under penalty of law.
Eight months later, in October 2009, the bill was ready in text form as the “Kill the Gays Bill”. By December, Ugandan churches backed the bill. The hate train was already in full force when Exodus finally made a statement that it did not back the bill. Several US religious leaders, including the figurehead of the Protestant church in the US, Rick Warren condemned the bill. It was already too late.
Completely lacking any wisdom and certainly not lead by God, Lou Engle of the Call, also went to Uganda in mid December 2009 to further solidify the gay-demon message. The next day, mobs were marching to demand the the “Kill the Gays Bill” be passed. (PLEASE, never support any endeavor by Lou Engle.)
Okay, in a nine month time frame, mix together: a fringe American Christian kook and illustrious Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Groups member, Scott Lively, two American ex-gay ministry leaders, materials that no mental/health/psychological professional in the US validates, one American “prophet of God” who each spoke into an existing culture of fear and violence (the men still beat their wives regularly), add a homegrown Ugandan “family group” ( aka anti-gay group), a vigilante media, severely homophobic pastors and gay-hating government leaders all blaming the ills of Uganda on GLBT people in a boiling pot and you get the most bloody, fear-based, lie filled , anti gay legislation in the world. The “Kill the Gays Bill” is church supported, lead by Pastor Martin Ssempa, government back, lead by David Bahati, and media fueled in a nation that identifies as 84% Christian. Recall, the genocide in Rwanda which resulted in 800,000 people being murdered, had many of the ingredients ( discrimination, government and media) but, it was not rooted in the trusted, respected, obeyed church environment.
This is an extremely important point to understand about the culture in Uganda. People believe and follow instruction and teachings that come out of the mouths of their religious leaders even more so than what the government officials say. The thinking is that government leaders and workers can be paid off, sacrificing the truth. AH, but the church leaders, they are men of God and they surely speak the truth. This extreme homophobia is now embedded in the teaching and instruction of the churches. How Christ-like.
The Rolling Stone newspaper in Uganda publishes pictures and names of “known” homosexuals. Although an injunction against that practice will be ruled on in a few days, they will still find a way around the ruling. The exposure will continue in some sort of media.
Two men “caught in homosexual acts” were in process of being lynched a few days before Christmas when the police intervened and arrested the two men. Mind you, they arrested the two men, not the lynch mob. Trans people are brought before their church congregations and humiliated, undressed in order to assess gender identity. Exorcisms are performed and they are beaten. GLBTI people are called out in churches for humiliation and brutal exorcisms. Women are raped to change their orientation from lesbian to heterosexual. And this act is often performed by their own family members (so now incest is excusable in hopes of stopping homosexuality?). GLBTI people are harassed, stalked, threatened and isolated. Parents have vowed to turn their own children in and even kill them if they find out they are gay. GLBTI people are terrified to come out to their families. If they do, they risk being abandoned by family and thrown out on the streets. They lose their jobs and are threatened with poverty if they do come out. The families will also be under obligation to turn them in with the “Kill the Gays Bill”. All of this, church, government and media sanctioned. There are no, none, not one church where GLBTI people can find spiritual, emotional or physical refuge. “Christians” from the US imported this, churches bought into it and the “Christian” nation of Uganda is already expressing extreme homophobia even before the bill get to the vote.
Frank Mugisha is the public face of the GLBTI community in Uganda as the leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Although his background is in IT, Frank has grown into the man publicly fighting for a voice and equality of his people. He came out and began speaking against the discrimination of his community. Frank is currently in the United States speaking to faith based communities and human rights groups about the situation in Uganda. At the Affirming Christian Network, we have interviewed him twice and he has become a friend. The other man speaking to faith and human rights groups in the US and Europe is Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a former Anglican priest excommunicated for his stand against homophobia in Ugandan churches. Both Mugisha and Bishop Senyonjo are in the US to garner attention to the seriousness of the anti-gay passions and crisis situation in Uganda.
One might naturally think that governmental pressure from outside Uganda will stop this growing hate movement in Uganda. Not so. Many international political leaders have spoken out against the “Kill the Gays Bill”. Many of our own Christian leaders (some of them much too late) have spoken up in opposition against the bill. Deaf and defiant to the world, the church and political leaders of Uganda have a staunchly sovereign attitude combining “no one will tell us what to do” with “this homosexual problem was imported to Uganda from Europe and the US so why listen to and become like them?” attitude. Are you tracking with this all? The churches, government and media are on a freight train to eradicate homosexuality in Uganda. They want no input from outside sources. But, we sure gave it to them already with “Christian” representatives from the US fueling the existing hate with conferences, rallies, preaching, “facts” and encouragement. Fringe messengers that are not respected in the US. Uganda is in the perfect storm for a genocide.
What can you do? This is what Mugisha and Senyonjo are asking for. They need progressive churches to put people on the ground in Uganda to create refuge, safety and spiritual guidance for GLBT people. Remember, there is not one church where GLBTI people can now go. They need progressive churches to sent missionaries to preach the true Gospel of Jesus, one of love and non discrimination against GLBTI people. They need missionaries in Uganda to fight the hatred and lies and to bring truth. You can also write directly to the Cabinet Members of the Ugandan Parliament and give them your input. The link for all their addresses in on another page in this blog. (Thank you Lisa for the work on this!)
The United Nations on December 21, 2010 wisely restored the language of “sexual orientation” to the resolution on extra judicial executions. This means one cannot be executed for sexual orientation. The language protecting GLBT people had been removed on December 10th by hard lobbying from South African religious leaders, the Mormon Church and Christian fundamentalist groups and “the Family” . Good news? Yes. But will this be enough to save GLBTI people in Uganda from genocide? Looking back in history, the UN Peacekeepers did not halt the genocide in Rwanda even though they did have a presence on the ground. (Watch the fascinating and incredibly sad account in the documentary “Shaking Hands with the Devil”.)
If we as Christians, GLBTI allies and human rights supporters do not take very practical steps to stop this momentum, we will witness another African genocide and this one in Uganda. This time is will be carried out by a church supported government mandate to rid their country of homosexuals.
Uganda: a poor country that most of us cannot find on a map, filled with people unlike us in many ways, people that we don’t “need”. A country of 84% Christian people who are set on a track to kill, beat, harass, arrest, imprison, cast-out and rape a group of humans that their leaders tell them are destroying the nation of Uganda. And, ten African nations are watching the outcome of the vote to devise their own laws.
Contact Frank Mugisha or Bishop Senyonjo to offer help. They need money to travel to speak out and raise awareness. They need venues in which to speak to get the message out. They are begging for people from progressive churches to come to Uganda to stand with them. The vote is in February, but the toxin is already in the churches and that will be hard to eradicate. Even over time. It may take years to wash this poison from the pulpits. Now may well be the first opportunity the GLBT church has had to launch a meaningful missionary outreach to its own people.
Why should you care about Uganda? Remember Rwanda. If we do not care now, we may well be saying “it never should have happened”, “I can’t believed that happened”. The actions against the GLBTI community in Uganda could not be any further from the message of Jesus. Discrimination, violence, lies and murder. If you are GLBTI, these are you brothers and sisters. The vote is in February 2011 and no matter the outcome, the churches of Uganda are already entrenched in a message of extreme homophobia. Truth can overcome the lies, but it will take time. Consider how you might be part of the solution. Some can give money, some can go to Uganda in an effort from your own churches or denominations, all can pray. You can do something. If you are a Christian, you must do something.
Here is a Paypal account for Icebreakers Uganda, the organization Frank Mugisha also works with. Go to the site and the DONATE button is on the right column, part way down. If you need to get a hold of him with an idea, please do let me help you connect to him. I have a pretty open line to Frank and he is open to any/all outlets for awareness and help.
If you want to flood the Cabinet Members of the Ugandan Parliament with your input, here is a link to all their e mail addresses. It is on another page of this site. Contact List for Ugandan Parliament Members. (Thank you Lisa!!!). Lisa has also created an external page with email content suggestions and ALL the addresses in an easy copy and paste format. A small investment of your time will save lives. Please go to An Urgent Plea to Ugandan Lawmakers. Money and email are very practical immediate steps each of us may be able to take. And, pray.
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