More news and commentary coming out of the death of David Kato and his funeral today.
The Chicago Consultation issued this statement today from its co-convener, the Rev. Lowell Grisham:
“The Chicago Consultation applauds the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams for his statements condemning the murder of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato. We hope the archbishop’s statement signals a willingness to speak out against the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people more directly and forcefully than he has in the past.
“It is essential that the other primates of the Anglican Communion join Dr. Williams and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, in condemning the cultivation of hatred and violence against LGBT people. The primates who boycotted the current meeting in Dublin over theological differences with gay-friendly churches have a particular responsibility to affirm the dignity of every human being, and the right of LGBT people to live without fear of violence, degradation or criminal prosecution. We would welcome similar clarity from the Anglican Church in North America, which maintains close relationships with these primates.
“Heartened as we were by the archbishop’s statement, we believe that he is speaking aspirationally when he claims that the worldwide Anglican Communion has condemned violence against LGBT people. Occasional references to the dignity of gays and lesbians in voluminous communiqués cannot mask the fact that a number of Anglican provinces have been active or complicit in encouraging state-sponsored persecution of gays and lesbians, including the notorious anti-gay legislation still under consideration by the Ugandan parliament.
“Dr. Williams’ advocacy would be more credible were his handling of LGBT issues within the Anglican Communion more evenhanded. He has made it clear that the Episcopal Church may face consequences for consecrating gay and lesbian bishops. Yet primates such as Archbishop Henry Orombi in Kato’s own country of Uganda support laws that would imprison same-sex couples for simple acts of physical affection, but risk no such reprisals. The tortured ecclesiological rationale offered for this double standard makes little sense outside the cocoon of Communion bureaucracy, and it compromises the archbishop’s ability to be the forceful and effective advocate for human rights that this statement indicates he wants to be.”
Joseph Ward III writes in The Huffington Post:
David was a litigation and advocacy officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) -- an LGBT advocacy group that is a friend of my interfaith organization, Intersections International. SMUG's Executive Director, Frank Mugisha, released a press release this morning stating, "David's death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity." Frank and David were recently listed in a local tabloid -- the Ugandan Rolling Stone Magazine -- where it was suggested they and 100 "top homos" be hung for being gay. The magazine further encouraged violence by listing the addresses of these people, which forced many into hiding.
Human rights advocates across the world are frustrated for many reasons: Not only because of irresponsible Ugandan media outlets like Rolling Stone, which very well may have been responsible for David's death, but because of the many Christians who have instigated religious-based violence at the core of this conflict. Frank and I spoke in January and he candidly asserted that homophobia has always existed in Uganda, but the catalyst for violence truly came following a presentation by three U.S. evangelists -- Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, and Caleb Lee Brundidge -- in March 2009. As has been widely reported, they preached anti-gay lectures at a conference that laid the foundation for the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" spit out of the Ugandan Parliament in the fall of 2009 by David Bahati. While it already is illegal to be an LGBT person in Uganda, this bill invokes even harsher punishments (including the death penalty) for those "accused" of being homosexual. "People used to live in society and were not harassed, not arrested," Frank said. "This bill has created violence towards LGBTI people all over the country."
After the U.S. evangelists visited Uganda, the country was tainted by a wave of religious-based violence. Many parents threw their kids out of their households after hearing the conference lectures, and forced them into therapy to be "cured." Transgender people were stripped naked and taken into churches where congregants prayed for the "demons" to be released from their bodies. In Uganda, where an overwhelming majority of the country professes to be Christian, there is a considerable amount of influence from the pulpit. And it's not only by foreign religious leaders but local priests who are overwhelmingly preaching hostility towards LGBT persons. "How can you even start communicating with people who are very hostile like that? You don't even have the avenues to create the type of dialogue," Frank said.
Locally, leadership is needed from the religious community to end the Christian discord. Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo has been one of these rare voices of love and courage to speak out and promote love for all of God's children. However, the reaction of his Anglican Communion in Uganda was bitter. "They said I should be condemning the LGBT community in Uganda. My church said if you don't condemn, you should not be working with us, the Anglican Church. It's pretty hard but I stuck with it," Senyonjo said, who was stripped of church responsibilities for his beliefs.
David's life sadly was cut short by violence, and the motive for his death is still not exactly known. But the brave advocates for Human Rights in Uganda continue to fight to bring the violence to an end. "The death of David will only be honored when the struggle for justice and equality is won. David is gone and many of us will follow, but the struggle will be won," SMUG said in a statement. Here in the United States, it is crucially important for Christians in particular, but all Americans as well, to lend their voices to amplifying the plight of LGBT persons in Uganda.
Warren Throckmorton cites continued anti-gay reaction to David Kato’s death:
Various actors in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill saga have made statements and provided their own spin on the death of David Kato.
In this BBC segment, Martin Ssempa provides comment. Ssempa says the reason for Kato’s death is “gay on gay bashing.” Given his brush with the legal system, perhaps Ssempa has taken up investigating crime and has it all figured out. Otherwise, the BBC segment is worth viewing in that it again demonstrates the difficult situation for Ugandan GLBT people.
David Bahati uses Kato’s death to continue to bash gays and essentially says Kato brought his death on himself.
ENS has a story about the response of Episcopalians to his murder.
The brutal murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato has left much of the world in shock and caused outrage among Episcopalians who have repeatedly called for the church and society to step up the campaign to combat homophobia throughout the world.
The Rev. Cynthia Black, interim rector of Church of the Epiphany in Plymouth, Minnesota, told ENS that Kato was "a valiant crusader for human rights. His death is a rallying cry for the church and the gay community -- the killing and persecution of gay people around the globe must stop. Who will be the next to die...?"
...Black, who co-produced a 2009 documentary highlighting the views and experiences of gay Anglicans in Africa, said she'd corresponded with Kato about a year ago and "he spoke of the potential for genocide of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda because of the hatred brought on by a visit of American evangelicals in the spring of 2009."
Bruce Garner, a member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, told ENS that he believes the situation in Uganda "has come about because of the insistence of some faith groups on very narrow and literal interpretation of certain portions of Scripture, particularly those dealing with human sexuality, especially same-gender sexual activity."
Garner, an openly gay Episcopalian from Atlanta, said that Kato's murder may have been avoided "if the leaders of the various Christian faith communities, including and especially the Anglican Communion, had spoken out prayerfully but forcefully against such a selectively literal interpretation of Scripture … When we sit in silence or only whisper our protests against what we believe to be wrong and not in accord with the Gospel, we are as culpable as those who are such loud and stringent voices calling for severe punishment, in this case ending in death."
In October 2009, a bill was proposed to the Ugandan Parliament that called for broadening the criminalization of homosexuality in the East African country and introducing the death penalty in certain cases.
Following international public condemnation, the bill has been temporarily withdrawn, but is expected to be reintroduced in the future. In March 2010, Senyonjo was among those who delivered to the Ugandan Parliament an online petition containing more than 450,000 signatures of people opposing the law.
Integrity USA, a group that advocates for the rights of LGBT people, issued a statement on Jan. 27 saying it is "deeply saddened …but not surprised," by Kato's murder.