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Gay Christians In Uganda

An interesting letter in yesterday’s Guardian (link added):

Chris Stentaza’s experience of persecution (Gay Ugandan Christian denied visa to visit UK, January 29) has become extremely common among gay Christians in Africa.

The most recent wave of imprisonments and beatings in Uganda started in 1999 when President Yoweri Museveni launched a crackdown on homosexuals, publicly supported by the Anglican archbishop.

Just last month, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported that the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda had intensified following the Anglican church of Uganda’s aggressive campaign against homosexuality that was launched as a direct response to the American church consecrating a gay bishop.

Throughout Africa, gay Christians are frightened, isolated and desperate. Those who are open about their sexuality are commonly excluded from church life and refused baptism and communion. They can be subjected to verbal abuse by their priests and bishops. Those working for the church are sacked.

The Anglican church has committed itself to listen to the voices of lesbian and gay people. Yet the church attacks and excludes them as soon as they make their voices heard. The bishops of the Anglican communion must make it possible for listening to take place and engage in the dialogue that it has been so repeatedly promised.

Rev Colin Coward
Director, Changing Attitude

Rev Dr Giles Fraser
Chair, Inclusive Church

Rev Kelvin Holdsworth
Changing Attitude Scotland

Rt Rev Barry Hollowell
Bishop of Calgary

The Rev’d Susan Russell
President, Integrity USA

The Archbishop of Uganda is Henry Orombi, who was installed a year ago. Last summer, several parishes in Los Angeles seceded to the Church of Uganda in protest against their liberal bishop. The IGLHRC’s account of the crackdown appears in its 2004 annual report, which notes:

Based on recent reports that we received from activists in Uganda, the government is escalating the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists and has directed the police to investigate and “take appropriate action against reported activities of homosexual associations2 at a local university. Activists in Uganda have perceived this as a direct threat to their freedom of expression and association. In addition, the Broadcasting Council of Uganda, a government agency, has imposed a fine on Radio Simba, a popular radio station, for hosting openly gay and lesbian activists on a call-in talk show. Arguing that the radio program violated Uganda’s Electronic Media Act, which prohibits broadcasting matters that are contrary to “public morality,” the Broadcasting Council of Uganda has ordered the station to publicly apologize and warned other broadcasters to “be more responsible about the content of their programs.” The government’s actions have instilled tremendous fear into the community. IGLHRC has been providing assistance to several groups as they attempt to design an effective response.

Further details from an IGLHRC spokesperson can be found on the OIA Newswire. In 1999 Museveni announced that he had instructed police investigators to “look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them.”

A BBC interview with Christoper Senteza from 2003 can be read here. A 2002 essay by Kevin Ward from the Anglican Theological Review is also worth looking at for a bit of context. I have not been able to find any reference where Orombi has distanced himself from Museveni’s stated wish to persecute homosexuals.

(As it happens, Museveni is currently hosting TD Jakes.)

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