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at least one religious leader on the side of LGBT rights in Uganda

27 October 2013

“Do not be discouraged. God created you. God is on your side.”

That was said by Bishop Christopher Senyonjo at the funeral of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato in 2011.

I saw this in the film Call me Kuchu, a documentary on the struggle for LGBTI rights in Uganda. The trailer is below; the film is available in a number of formats — I streamed it on Netflix.

The Bishop’s remarks stand in stark contrast to the typical religious leader’s attitudes toward sexual minorities, particularly in Africa. Perhaps I’m optimistic that Bishop Senyonjo will be a trailblazer that other religious leaders in Africa will follow.

Just last week, Malawi’s major daily newspaper, The Nation, ran an article reporting a Muslim Sheikh who had attended a workshop on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights saying in an interview:

“As religious leaders, we are saying nowhere in the Bible or the Koran is it written that homosexuality is supposed to be there or promoted. On the other hand, what we are saying is that people who are practising this are supposed to be served on three things: They are supposed to be given love, they are supposed to get protection and also we have to look after them because they are human beings and are totally entitled to all human rights.”

It’s not wholesale acceptance, but it’s a start. Maybe my optimism isn’t naive. Inshallah.

Until attitudes toward LGBTI change, however, it is important films like Call Me Kuchu and the new film God Loves Uganda (disclaimer: I’ve only seen the trailer for the latter) that can shed some light on the challenges LGBTI people face.

Some of the Call Me Kuchu trailer (and film) might be familiar to haba na haba readers. I wrote an earlier post that linked to an excerpt made by Call Me Kuchu’s filmmakers featured in the New York Times in 2012 commemorating a year after David Kato’s death.

For discussion of both films, see Brett Davidson’s review at Africa is a Country.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Neil permalink
    27 October 2013 2:33 pm

    Whilst I would love to share your optimism, remember that Desmond Tutu has been speaking out in support of LGBTI rights and acceptance for many, many years.

    • 27 October 2013 2:38 pm

      Truth! For those who didn’t know, see these comments from Desmond Tutu in 2011 and 2013. The Bishop is not alone among religious leaders in Africa, but he is one of very few religious leaders speaking up for LGBT rights, particularly in Uganda.

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