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Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo breaks silence on the murder of David Kato

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, retired Anglican bishop of West Buganda issued his first public statement today on the recent murder of human rights advocate David Kato. The bishop worked with Kato through Integrity Uganda and the Civil Society Coalition (composed of 34 human rights organizations including the St. Paul’s Centre for Reconciliation and Equality, headed by the bishop). Both men were pictured on the front page of the controversial Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone" where the names and addresses of leading LGBT Ugandans and allies were exposed and called for their execution. Kato was one of the plaintiffs in the case that successfully brought a court injunction to stop the paper’s publication.

Bishop Christopher (79) retired ten years ago and opened a counseling center in Kampala where he began to offer pastoral care to marginalized people including the LGBT community and has been an advocate for decriminalization of homosexuality in Uganda and around the world. The bishop recently attended a UN consultation of faith communities gathered in New York where the call for decriminalization gained support from many faith leaders.

The bishop’s statement is an open letter to the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and fellow bishops of the 70 million strong Anglican Communion. The statement calls for the Anglican Church to be more aggressive in its protection of human rights, particularly in Africa where significant support for continued criminalization of homosexuality is coming from religious leaders. The Anglican Church of Uganda with its 10 million members has been supportive of the recent Bahati Bill which is proposing more harsh sentences and calls for family members to report on suspected LGBT people. The Church has made public statements where they are critical of applying internationally recognized human rights standards to the LGBT community in Uganda. The bishop joins other Anglican bishops including three bishops in New York who responded to the Kato murder with a similar call for greater religious advocacy in the face of anti-gay legislation and increasing violence.

Further information on the bishop’s statement and his work through the St. Paul’s Centre in Kampala may be obtained from Rev. Canon Albert Ogle at aogle@stpaulsfoundation.com or 949 338 8830. You can read the full letter on our site.

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Open Letter from Bishop Christopher Senyonjo to Archbishop Rowan Williams

An open letter to the Anglican Communion on the place of human rights in communities of faith by Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, Retired Bishop of West Buganda and Director of the St. Paul’s Centre for Equality and Reconciliation, Kampala. February 8th 2011

Dear Archbishop Rowan Williams, Primates and fellow bishops, clergy and people of our diverse Anglican Communion.

Peace from God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I give thanks on behalf of the family and friends of David Kato for your love and prayers at this difficult time. All over the world, human beings are longing for liberation, love, respect and the dignity to have meaningful lives. This week alone, we witnessed it in Egypt .We also see this longing in the struggle for human rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people (LGBT) through the sacrificial life and death of David Kato. As human beings, we must respect our differences and be united in our call for listening and sharing with each other. To understand God, we are all called to understand the mystery of each other, including our sexualities. God has given us this gift and to defame, condemn, imprison and kill human beings because of their God-given nature, is a great human error. The church has a tragic history of condemning Jews, Moslems, scientists and LGBT people. Our teaching and theology has a causal effect and if we do not learn from our own historical mistakes, we will repeat the same sinful destruction of lives, families and communities.

When European churches failed to protect minority communities during World War II, people were sent to the gas chambers and concentration camps.  Many religious people in Europe emerged from that experience to help create the Declaration of Human Rights. We now have sixty years of building an internationally recognised framework for the protection of human rights in every country.  If Anglicans in one country dehumanize, persecute and imprison minorities, we must be true to the Gospel and challenge such assaults on basic human rights. They key to our ministry must be to educate our people and encourage LGBT people to tell their stories and the impact of homophobia in their lives. Listening to the stories of LGBT people was the beginning of my own transformation. This work of understanding the phenomenon of human sexuality should be taken seriously in our theological seminaries and schools. The clergy should be well equipped to serve and not to ignorantly repel the people of God. A required course in Human Sexuality should be required of all seminarians and clergy.

Many African countries imprison LGBT people because of who they are.  As a bishop in the midst of those countries, I am now a shepherd caring for the lost sheep that are persecuted by the Church and threatened by a pending anti-homosexual draconian bill in Uganda. I preach the new covenant of Jesus Christ sealed in love as we read in John 15:12. This is the heart of the Gospel-the Good News. This sacrifice of Love is mocked when sister churches tolerate or promote the violation of basic human rights. Life and liberty are at risk and we must hold each other accountable. A loving Anglican Communion should not keep quiet when the Rolling Stone tabloid in Uganda openly supports the "hanging of the homos," including a fellow bishop who pleads for their inclusion and non-discrimination! Silence has the power to kill. We have witnessed its destruction this past week in the tragic and cruel murder of David Kato.

We African Anglicans have a rich and powerful history of speaking out on human rights in the most difficult of situations.  Bishop Colenso worked with Zulus to establish an indigenous church while being fought by his fellow English bishops.  Bishops Trevor Huddleston, John Taylor and Desmond Tutu resisted Apartheid. We must not demean our great tradition by oppressing LGBT minorities under any circumstances, even to maintain Anglican unanimity. The criminalization of homosexuality remains the greatest state and church sanctioned violence perpetrated against LGBT people and their allies in many countries. We must agree to demolish all forms of institutional homophobia beginning with the removal of all laws that punish human beings for being gay or living in loving relationships. This will be the first step in providing basic human rights to a largely invisible international community who live in daily fear of their lives.

So in thanksgiving for the unity and commitment we have together, let us continue to listen to one another, to protect the vulnerable and marginalized within our own societies and to bring our collective wisdom to the work of repairing the world and correcting the great injustices in our local communities.

+Christopher

Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo

Further information on the work of the St. Paul’s Centre and Bishop Christopher may be obtained from Rev. Canon Albert Ogle at aogle@stpaulsfoundation.com. 619 338 8830

Please sign this petition calling on US-based pastors and orgnizations to stop their support of violent rhetoric & legislation in Uganda

Thousands of LGBT Advocates Pause to Grieve the Death of David Kato

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

For Immediate Release
February 4, 2011
Media Contact: Pedro Julio Serrano 787-602-5954

Thousands of LGBT Advocates Pause to Grieve the Death of David Kato

In the wake of the brutal murder of David Kato, gay advocate in Uganda, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender leaders attending the Creating Change conference in Minneapolis, February 2-6, paused to remember his life and vowed to work even harder to tell our stories and move public opinion to accept LGBT people in all countries.

At a memorial vigil on Friday night, February 4, LGBT faith leaders and advocates from across the country and the world grieved the loss of their brother, David. 

"No form of intimidation will stop our cause," said Mr. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). "The life and death of David will be honored as we struggle for justice and equality and win the hearts of people around the world because we are your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  David is gone but the struggle will be won. David wanted to see a Uganda where all people will be treated equally. It is our turn to pick up the mantle and carry on."

"Faith leaders have been working for the last year to expose the efforts of some American Christian conservatives to spread anti-LGBT attitudes to Africa, and Uganda in particular," said Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition.  "So-called ‘ex-gay’ ministries have failed so dismally in the United States that they are now exporting their damaging beliefs.  They will continue to fail because diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity is inherent to humankind."

"Jesus taught us that we must love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  But some of our Christian brothers and sisters in the United States and around the world turn Jesus’ ministry on its head," said the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, faith work director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "They preach judgment, condemnation and rejection and use fear to raise money and stoke violence.  Where is the love?  The murder of David Kato must be investigated and those responsible need to be brought to justice.  But all of us–Ugandans, Americans and all our neighbors around the world–need to build societies in which love, respect and human dignity rule the day, no matter what faith tradition or culture we come from."
"David Kato was a member of the Anglican Church of Uganda. Sadly, most Ugandan Anglican leaders preach messages of rejection and condemnation under the guise of religion," said the Rev. David Norgard, president of Integrity USA.  "As members of the Episcopal Church, we have a long standing relationship with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Uganda as members of the global Anglican Communion and must face the fact that the Church has been a big part of the problem.  It is long overdue for Christians, and good people of all faiths, to be the solution: to stop this violence, to sow love where hatred now festers and to respect the dignity of every human being."

"As African Americans and Baptist/United Church of Christ clergy, we minister to straight, same-gender loving and transgender people in the District of Columbia. We are devastated by the loss of David Kato, a powerful advocate for justice in Uganda," said the Revs. Dennis and Christine Wiley.  "We have seen how the strategy of fear mongering is being used to drive a wedge within the African American community despite a long tradition of accommodated differences in gender identity and love partnerships among our own.  Today, some religious leaders make a living on the backs of gay and transgender people through fear and misinformation.  They preach a message of exclusion rather than a gospel of love.  In Uganda, this led to a murder and ongoing persecution.  It is time to stop."

"My prayers go out to the people of Uganda who lost a courageous soul to brutality.  As a Bishop and pastor to same gender loving and transgender African American Christians in the United States, I have seen firsthand how true faith saves lives and how hate in the guise of religion destroys people and communities," said Bishop Tonya Rawls of Unity Fellowship Church Movement.  "Africans and African Americans know firsthand how Scripture has been used to justify slavery, colonialism and racism around the globe.  Using Scripture to condemn people for their sexual orientation and gender identity is just as wrong.  God’s love always trumps hate." 

"My heart aches for David Kato’s family and the good people of Uganda who have lost a hero and prophetic voice for justice," said Dr. Sharon Groves, interim director of religion and faith for the Human Rights Campaign.  "I hold my faith dear; it is faith that can heal and helps us understand that God is love.  So, I cannot sit idly by while a few radical preachers from the USA use the Bible to foment hate crimes in Uganda.  As we mourn the death of David Kato, I call on faithful people worldwide to speak out against the export fear and lies in the name of religion.   Let us say in a unified voice, ‘not in my name.’" 

The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, said, "Around the world MCC is known as the human rights church.  We honor the life of David Kato who lived boldly and settled for nothing less than his full humanity.  We pray for people in Uganda, the US and everywhere who fear people because of who they love and who they are. We pray for advocates who risk their lives every day and commit ourselves to work even harder to bring a day of peace, understanding and respect."

"As a Jew, I know what it means to be persecuted for who you are.  The headlines, attacks and religious drum beat of judgment and rejection has an all too familiar ring to it.  Human beings can be fomented into horrific acts.  We must be vigilant to make respect for difference the most basic of human values for all civil societies because we are created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God," said Dr. Joel L. Kushner, director of Judaism and sexual orientation, Hebrew Union College – JIR.

"The United Church of Christ is a denomination that continues to stand up for LGBT people," said the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, UCC Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy.  "We urge all denominations to turn the tragedy of David Kato’s death into a moment of gospel clarity that no individual or group should be persecuted in the name of the Bible.  False ideas and fear have no place in Christianity."

Bishop Yvette Flunder, presiding bishop of The Fellowship, said, "We know that David Kato’s life laid the ground work for what is to come.  He had a vision and he pursued it.  It was a vision of a country and a world that is safe for all of us to live and love and pray together as beloved children of God.  David shone the light and all of us are better for his work and life."
“David fought bravely against a rising tide of persecution fomented and fostered in no small measure by a conservative evangelical network emanating from the U.S. that uses disinformation to spread fear and mistrust," said Pam Spees, staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights. "We call for accountability and for people in religious communities to publicly stand against the persecution of LGBT people. We can do no less."

###

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is an interfaith network of leaders from eighty-five pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faith, spiritual and religious organizations. We work in partnership with other groups to promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people within society at large and in communities of faith. We promote understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of faith paths and for religious liberty, and to achieve commonly held goals that promote equality, spirituality and justice.

UN Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights: A growing coalition for decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity

The United Nations Faith Coalition for Human Rights mourns the loss of our friend and colleague, David Kato, who was murdered in his home at mid-day on January 26, 2011, in Uganda. David was a leading advocate for the rights of sexual minorities in his country and around the world. He was outspoken, courageous and incisive. His persona, spirit, intelligence and wit animated our lives and our Coalition’s collective pursuit of equality and justice for all people.
David’s death comes days after winning a law suit against Rolling Stone newspaper in Uganda for the publication of his name, photograph and address in a list of "Top 100 Homosexuals" with a hangman’s noose next to the pictures.

Over the last year David and others fought the "kill the gays" bill which is still pending in the Ugandan Parliament. Conservative Christians worked hand-in-glove in the planning of this bill and Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, who describes himself as a devout Christian, said in a quote in the New York Times, "Homosexuals can forget about human rights."

Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) said, "The international community must not ignore David’s Kato’s death which is one more sign of rising persecution and genocide. LGBT people are fleeing from their homes in fear for their lives. People of good will must speak out."
The Coalition urges news coverage of and participation in the following vigils:

  • Feb 3-4 p.m. — United Nations Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York
  • Feb 3-6-8 a.m. — "Breakfast without Bigotry" Wash. DC, Hilton Hotel 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW
  • Feb 7-7 p.m. — Rev. Calvin Butts, Abyssinian Baptist Church,132 Odell Clark Place (W 138th St) NYC

David’s life must not be in vain. As faith leaders and citizens, we must respond to David’s murder. Change will only happen when people of good conscience everywhere stand up and say, "I know someone who is gay, I know someone who is transgender. Let them live their lives in peace with full rights of citizens and the same protection of laws as I have."

Pastor Joseph Tolton, of The Fellowship, said, "As part of the African Diaspora, we are saying out loud, that when any of us are targeted, we are all at risk."
We know that people from the United States with tax exemptions use their anti-gay brand of religion to raise money and feed the frenzy of anti-gay rhetoric that led to David’s death. Those same preachers will deny any connection to the horrific murder of David, but they cannot erase their broadcasts and stadium events that demonize gay people. This must stop.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, from Uganda, said, "As a straight ally to LGBT people, I see the growing persecution of people because of who they are and who they love, in part, because Evangelicals from the USA come to Uganda and preach against LGBT people. This divides families, communities and countries."
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, said, "We call upon our colleagues in ministry who have contributed to the rise of violence against gay and transgender people in Uganda and around the world to repent of their preaching and public pronouncements that being gay is a sin or an illness that can be ‘cured.’ These untruths distort family and community relationships, encourage violence and, when unchecked, result in murder." Dr. Love is the Executive Director of Soulforce and member of the Human Rights Campaign Religion Council,

We call on the leaders of all nations to use the power of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, international treaties and economic aid to defend sexual minorities throughout the world. Uganda and other nations receive millions of aid dollars from the US, and persecute gay citizens for no other reason than their expression of love for someone of the same gender. 120 nations imprison or execute gay people and one third of them recently received economic aid from the US.

We call on President Obama to use his presence at the National Prayer Breakfast to mourn our brother and to express his Administration’s position on governments who "fail to protect" their citizens and tax-exempt Christian institutions who export hate and fear.

We call on all countries to adopt the Yogyakarta Principles which say, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse."

The United Nations Faith Coalition for Human Rights is a growing network of thousands of people of faith around the world who work for respect, inclusion, equality and human rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

David Kato Memorial at the United Nations

Dear all: 

A week ago, we witnessed the death of Ugandan Human Rights Defender David Kato – he was a  remarkable human rights activist with an inspiring story and so we want to remember him with thanksgiving, confession and a renewed commitment to the fact that every human being is entitled to safety and security under the law and when a law is created which refuses the living of life because of the prejudices of a populace, we’ve got to take a stand with the one who is refused that life.

We also know that the human rights he was determined to defend (the LGBT population) were of a population that  Christianity as well as other religions have condemned, and spread through colonialization even unto today.   This part of Uganda is especially influenced by an evangelical fervor against homosexuality.

Please come and reflect and renew our action together for the sake of all persons –  the elderly, the middle aged, the young adults, the youth and the children of the world…. in the Chapel at CCUN at noon on Wednesday.   

We hope to advise of the actions that are happening around this concern in the U.N. area and in the Churches (and perhaps other religions) at that service.

Thank you.
Kathleen

Chaplain, Church Center for the United Nations
777 United Nations Plaza, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10017
212-682-3633, ext. 3127

Download the flyer for the service

Update on death of David Kato in Uganda – Vigil, Memorial to be held in NYC

I am sending this message on behalf of the International Program Committee (IPC) of Lutherans Concerned/North America.  By now, many have heard the tragic news of the brutal murder of one of the key Ugandan LGBT advocates, David Kato (see http://tinyurl.com/DavidKatoMurdered).  As news agencies have reported, David was targeted for harassment and bullying by those seeking LGBT repression–in this case, the most extreme form of bullying.  
In the professional work I did previously in Uganda, I sought to enable all Ugandans to participate in the future development of their country. I worked to build a future for Ugandan children particularly, children such as David was back then. As an adult, David gave his life in a tireless effort to enable the LGBT community to live safely and comfortably in the community of Uganda. That his murder comes during a period when certain Christian leaders from the U.S. have been actively campaigning against LGBT people in Uganda and other African nations is extremely disturbing to me (see http://tinyurl.com/UgandaChristian).

Many of you have begun to make plans to join the fund raising campaign mentioned in the all-member-email of January 16, which aims to support the St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equity Center established by Bishop Senyonjo in Kampala (see http://stpaulsfoundation.com).  One of the focuses of the Center’s work will be on establishing sanctuary, so as to provide a shelter from the kind of violence that killed David Kato. We welcome your participation and will send more information on the steps to follow for consolidation of the funds raised.

While the fundraising details are being worked out, I ask you to offer up your prayers for David and all who mourn him.  And I, too, ask for your prayers–this intersection of oppression has proved a bitter one for me.  

There are two important, related events being organized as I write this.

  1. The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, LC/NA, and over thirty other organizations are co-sponsoring a silent vigil and procession in New York City to mourn David Kato’s ruthless murder. It will be held Thursday, February 3.  For the full info, please see http://lutheransconcerned.blogspot.com/2011/02/vigil-to-commemorate-slain-ugandan.html.
  2. On Monday, February 7, a Memorial Service will be held for David Kato at Riverside Church (490 Riverside Dr., New York, NY). Please see http://tinyurl.com/KatoService.

I implore all those who live in the Metro New York area to attend one or both of these events.

In Christ’s name, who reconciles all,
Philip Moeller
Director, International Program Committee
Lutherans Concerned/North America

American Jewish World Service mourns the loss of David Kato

AJWS is deeply saddened and outraged by the brutal murder of David Kato, a Ugandan LGBTI activist. Kato was one of the most visible and vocal defenders of human rights for LGBTI Ugandans and served as the advocacy officer for the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). He partnered closely with AJWS’s Ugandan grantees to voice opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill — a piece of proposed legislation that would strengthen existing penalties against homosexuality and make same-sex relations in Uganda punishable by prison. Among the bill’s many dangerous provisions, a person who fails to report within 24 hours the identity of anyone perceived to be LGBTI or who supports the human rights of LGBTI people, would be subject to up to three years’ imprisonment.

Read the full statement

David Kato murdered in Uganda

David Kato, a tireless LGBT advocate and spokesperson with Sexual Minorities Uganda, was murdered in his home. Kato’s name was published by a Ugandan newspaper decrying the "Top 100 Homosexuals In Uganda" with a call to "hang them."

Kato also worked Soulforce as part of the United Nations Faith Coalition. We are deeply saddened by this greivous crime and the loss of a great person. We will update you as more develops.

UN Faith Coalition Urges Protections for Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity

A growing coalition for decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity

Media Release
December 17, 2010
Contact: Ann Craig (213)-703-1365 craig@glaad.org<mailto:craig@glaad.org>

UN Faith Coalition Urges Protections for Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity

Forty national faith leaders and organizations in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were convened on December 13 by the Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights. The group, meeting across the street from the United Nations at the Church Center for the UN, spoke out strongly against the action of a committee in the UN that removed gay people from a list of groups protected from violent targeting and extrajudicial killing.  The Coalition expressed strong support for Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, who is expected to propose reinstatement of sexual orientation to the UN resolution on December 20.

The essence of the Resolution is reflected in the following comments by leaders in the Coalition.  The full document can be read on our blog.

Bruce Knotts, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office, said, "Thousands of supporters have been called on to contact US State Department officials and the UN to urge the reinstatement of sexual orientation as a protected class.  In addition to this protection, the UN and all countries can add protection for everyone by adopting the Yogyakarta Principles which say, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.’"

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, retired bishop from Uganda, said, "As a straight ally to LGBT people, I see how countries in Eastern Africa are increasingly persecuting people because of who they are and who they love, in part, because Evangelicals from the USA come to Uganda and preach against LGBT people. This divides families, communities and countries. The UN removal of sexual orientation from a list of protected groups is one more symptom of a deeply disturbing trend."

Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce, said, "Imprisoning or executing people for sexual orientation or gender identity does not just violate human rights, it undermines trust, social cohesion, economic development and public health. Trust is vital for cooperation among nations, communities, families and co-workers.  We call on the UN to rebuild this trust by protecting all people who are subject to persecution by unjust laws and mob actions."

Frank Mugisha, head of SMUG (Sexual Minorities of Uganda) said, "The international community must not ignore the warning signs of persecution and genocide.  LGBT people are fleeing from their homes in fear for the lives.  Any law that calls for imprisonment or execution based on sexual orientation or gender identity creates a climate ripe for vigilantes. People of good will must speak out."

Pat Bumgardner, head of the Metropolitan Community Church’s International Committee, said, "All faith traditions support human rights but many faith leaders get cold feet when it comes to LGBT human rights.  It is time for faith leaders to step up and support human rights for all people.
Pastor Joseph Tolton, of The Fellowship, said, African American people of faith understand that LGBT people have always been part of our faith communities.  As part of the African Diaspora, we are saying out loud, that when any of us are targeted, we are all at risk.

Episcopal Canon Albert Ogle, head of St. Paul’s Foundation, said, "When I was in Uganda this year, I saw the needs for pastoral ministry such as Bishop Senyonjo is offering.  Today, we call on all faith leaders to know that much rests on their shoulders.  They need to follow their conscience to take actions to protect LGBT people both in the US and across the globe."

The UN Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights is a coalition of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office, Metropolitan Community Church, National Black Justice Coalition, The Fellowship, Union Theological Seminary and St. Paul’s Foundation for Reconciliation.