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

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.

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.

Dr. Cindi Love to attend UN Human Rights Consultation

Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce will attend 2nd LGBTI/SOGI HUMAN RIGHTS CONSULTATION DECEMBER 13th, 2010 at the United Nations.  The task force will further its work in countering the homophobia that is quickly spreading throughout the world, particularly in regions like Africa and the Middle East and explore more opportunities to raise religious voices and support human rights defenders on the ground throughout theworld.  There are more than 80 nations where a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person may be imprisoned for life or executed for being open about sexual orientation or gender expression.

The meeting coincides with several other events held at and around the UN commemorating International Human Rights Day.  Three frontline
advocates from both Uganda and Kenya will be featured at the consultation, Bishop Christopher Senjonjo and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha from Uganda and the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, David Kuria Mbote.

United Nations Update

Thank you all for your commitment and prayers for our work on the United Nations task force on decriminalization in Uganda. With your help, Bishop Christopher from Uganda was able to complete his seven week tour of the USA and Ireland. You can follow some of the more detailed reaction to his visit on the Integrity Blog "Summer Pilgrimage with Bishop Christopher" www.walkingwithintegrity.org.

As a result of your generosity, Integrity USA collected $32,000 and agreed upon a budget to sustain the bishop’s courageous work among some of the most marginalized people of Uganda. Inspired by his favorite saint, the Bishop has renamed his Center "The St. Paul’s Center for Reconciliation and Equality". Now, we are focused on technical assistance to those on the ground in Uganda and sustainability of the work there. You can designate a gift for this work by writing "United Nations" in the note field on our Donate to Soulforce page. We are joined by the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and other leading justice organizations in supporting this work.

We have achieved a great first step and, it is important to understand that the Center and Bishop’s Christopher’s work is only funded through March 2011, so this second and third stages are critical to sustaining the work in Uganda and creating a potential model LGBT and allied progressive network for the region.

Update on Bishop Christopher

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 30, 2010

CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja, Equality California
PHONE: 916-284-9187 EMAIL: vaishalee@eqca.org
State Senate Calls on Federal Government to Help Stop Uganda’s Bill Criminalizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender People
Equality California-sponsored resolution condemns Uganda’s draconian law persecuting LGBT people

Sacramento – The California State Senate today passed a resolution (SR 51) condemning Uganda’s bill criminalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in 21-14 vote. Introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California, the resolution urges the U.S. government to intensify its efforts to eliminate the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide as well as to take more caution when funding faith-based organizations to ensure that U.S. government funds and resources are accessible to women, minorities, and the LGBT community.

"The U.S. government must do everything in its power to stop the bill before the Uganda legislature that would lead to the criminalization and even death of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. "The California Senate has taken an important step in passing this resolution, which will help raise awareness of the crisis in Uganda and will put the state on record in support of the U.S. government strengthening its efforts to end the criminalization of LGBT people worldwide."

The resolution also encourages faith-based organizations in the U.S. to support the creation of policies in other countries that do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"It is egregious that radical religious leaders from our nation are working to spread fears about and discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda," said Sen. Leno. "These deplorable actions have encouraged violence, and even death against Ugandans.  This resolution is a simple human rights appeal urging President Obama and our federal leaders to call for the decriminalization of LGBT people, not only in Uganda, but across the globe."
Finally, the legislation commends Reverend Christopher Senyonjo, retired Anglican Bishop of West Uganda, for his work and ministry to create an inclusive church and society in Uganda free from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the last year, Reverend Senyonjo has toured California, the United States and Europe to educate and bring attention to the hostility of the recent wave of religious-based homophobia in Uganda.

To find out more information about EQCA’s legislation, visit http://www.eqca.org/legislation.

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed over 60 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org