David Kato RIP

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Three years ago today, David Kato Kisule the Advocacy & Litigation Officer for SMUG, Sexual Minorities Uganda, was murdered in cold blood at his house in Mukono. A memorial service is being held this Sunday afternoon to remember David and celebrate his life at St. Paul’s Reconciliation & Equality Centre, Kampala.

Call Me Kuchu, a film about David’s life and work, was being made prior to his murder. David was the first gay man to be open about his sexuality in Uganda and one of the very few who dared to protest publicly against state-sanctioned homophobia in the country.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill which awaits the President’s signature was tabled prior to David’s murder. It has increased the level of fear under which LGB&T people live in Uganda and the prejudice against LGB&T people in the country. Christian bishops and leaders are among those clamoring most strongly for the bill to be signed.

I never imagined that instead of homophobia and prejudice being gradually reduced and eventually eliminated in those countries where anti-gay legislation is still enshrined in law, in certain countries, including Russia, India, and Nigeria, and possibly Uganda, it is being legitimated by the passage of new laws.

This is now the most serious issue dividing the Anglican Communion, based on dramatically different interpretations of the Bible and radically different understandings of what Jesus taught and Christianity represents. Some believe in a God who is judgmental and discriminatory and punishes people on the basis of their performance in life, assessed by these Christians on their use and interpretation of certain texts.

My friends and colleagues, Christian and post-Christian and ex-Christian, reject such an understanding of Christianity, witnessing the evils which it legitimates. Love, unconditional, infinite love, grace, creation evolving within God’s outpouring of energy, in which all are immersed, creates a vision for our life and work as Christians which is both outraged by the murder of David and all whose gender and sexuality is diverse.

I am clear that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are faced with a decision which is as intensely difficult for them as it is transparently clear to many others. Are they going to make clear where their Christian faith is leading them – to renounce all laws which enshrine discrimination against LGB&T people and to make clear to churches supporting discrimination that this is neither Christian nor congruent with the teaching of the Anglican Communion?

Archbishop John Sentamu issued a statement in 2013 strongly critical of the Uganda Bill. Since his elevation to Canterbury, Archbishop Justin Welby has been silent, both about the Nigerian and the Ugandan Bills. As many of my African friends are repeatedly asking, when will the Archbishops take a public stand against the evils taking place – how many more people will be abused, arrested, imprisoned and murdered because of their sexual or gender identity, justified by Christians based on their use and abuse of Scripture?

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