Ugandan gays find refuge in Vancouver Anglican church

Vancouver Sun

Amnesty International has taken up the cause of three Christian homosexuals jailed and beaten in Uganda for their sexual orientation, who have been finding a refuge in an East Vancouver Anglican church. The Ugandan refugee claimants illustrate the claim made by Vancouver’s Anglican bishop that some persecuted homosexual Christians in other parts of the world see Canada’s West Coast as a welcoming haven.

The three gay Christians arrested in Kampala

The three homosexual Ugandan Christians, who have been attending St. Margaret’s-Cedar Cottage Anglican church, were arrested, beaten and verbally abused in a September 1999, crackdown on homosexuals by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, according to Amnesty International. One of the women was raped while in prison. A month later, the Anglican Archbishop for Uganda publicly supported the president’s attitude toward African gays and lesbians.

A news article in The New Vision, a mainstream newspaper in Kampala, quotes Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyooyo backing the president’s condemnation of homosexuality, saying it is a sin and his church is adamantly “opposed to inhuman sex between men.” The Archbishop doesn’t comment directly in the article on whether he supports jailing gays and lesbians, who are routinely discriminated against in Africa.

Welcomed by Integrity Vancouver

The three Ugandans, whom Amnesty International reports refer to as “Christine,” “Rodney” and “Paul,” have been overjoyed to find they are accepted by many B.C. Anglicans, All three of the Ugandans who have lived in Vancouver and attended the east Vancouver church (two are Anglicans and one is a Roman Catholic), are seeking refugee status in Canada,. Two more homosexual Ugandans who left the country at the same time are now living outside Canada.

The three Ugandan homosexuals who have been living in Vancouver are extremely nervous about being named publicly, fearing they will be deported to Uganda or that their relatives in Africa will be harassed by government officials. Working with Amnesty International to raise international pressure, Integrity Vancouver provided funds to help the three homosexual Ugandans get released from Ugandan jail, escape to a neighbouring country and eventually make their way to North America.

Summary of their case

A summary of the case of the Ugandan homosexuals who were jailed in Africa is recounted on an Amnesty International web site devoted to stopping arrest and torture based on gender or sexual orientation. The Web site quotes Christine, who now lives in Vancouver, describing what happened to when she was arrested and interrogated (and later raped after being left alone in a prison with three male detainees).

“They asked me why I was not married. I told them I was not interested in marriage. They asked me if I knew homosexuality was taboo in Africa. I kept quiet. They said it was a criminal offence and I could get a 10-year or life sentence.”

Rodney, who now spends his time between Toronto and Vancouver, is held up on the Web site as an example of courage. He is quoted saying: “It will take me a long time to forget the torture I went through in Uganda and I hope that one day I shall return to Uganda and establish a centre (for homosexuals) without fear.”

Same-sex relationships are criminalized in Uganda and many other African countries, says Amnesty International. Being found “guilty” in Uganda of homosexual acts can mean life in prison.

Bishop Michael Ingham’s support

Bishop Michael Ingham, who this summer provoked an international controversy by agreeing to bless same-sex relationships, told the meeting in September of the Anglican Consultative Council in Hong Kong that he wants to show the many persecuted gays and lesbians who come to B.C. that the Christian church loves and accepts them.

Conditional support from conservative Anglicans

A spokesman for the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, a breakaway group of conservative Anglicans who strongly oppose Ingham’s decision to endorse same-sex relationships, said his organization condemns Uganda’s arrest of homosexuals.

“We deplore injustice in any context. So we can’t condone what happened in Uganda,” said Reverend Paul Carter, executive director of the group, which represents eight parishes that walked out of the annual meeting in June that voted in favour of same-sex blessings.

Carter applauded St. Margaret’s-Cedar Cottage Church for taking in and supporting the gay and lesbian Ugandans, although he added he might ultimately disagree on how to help them. Carter’s group believes God loves homosexuals, but opposes homosexual acts. Carter declined to comment on the Ugandan archbishop’s support for his president’s disapproval of homosexuals, saying he didn’t know the context in which Nkoyooyo made his statements.

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