By Joto La Jiwe
The Rev. Gideon B. Byamugisha, a renowned gay rights advocate who also represents the most at risk people of faith on Uganda’s National Equity Plan Committee, has taken a public stand condemning Ugandan homophobia in all its forms.
In an article published last month in the Daily Monitor newspaper, Byamugisha stated that he is spiritually troubled by social media discussions and government meetings full of virulent hate and anger towards Ugandans who are not or might not be heterosexuals.
“I find the language used, the emotions generated and the levels of physic aggressions and spiritual violence generated around this community unreligious and uncultured too. There are big societal dangers that come with encouraging the politics of sexual identity to override our personal and collective spirit of love and grace”, he stated.
“It is not correct to continue glossing over our own spiritual shortcomings, our moral gaps and our pastoral care failings towards those we unfairly stigmatize and self-righteously ridicule year after year….”
The reverend compared the current state of LGBTQ persons in Uganda to that of People Living with HIV (PLWHA) noting that just like that PLWHA, LGBTQ persons suffer needless pain of exclusion because of selfishness and self-righteousness exhibited by homophobes.
‘Instead of selfishly blaming, shaming and harassing these people, we should extend to them our repentant hand of love and heart of care. We should pray for (and with) them emphatically” Rev. Byamugisha wrote.
He stated that members of parliament should not table and debate laws against minority Ugandans with such deep and toxic levels of personal anger, social prejudice, civic disgust and spiritual hate.
Back in 2009, when the very first Anti-Homosexuality Bill was being crafted by a handful of homophobes, Rev. Byamugisha was the only religious leader who spoke out against it stating that:
“I believe that this bill [if passed into law] will be state-legislated genocide against a specific community of Ugandans, however few they may be.”
He stood his ground and even sent a strong message to his fellow clerics as follows:
“I sincerely hope that my fellow religious leaders will comprehend my stand against the level of violence proposed in the bill,” he said. “I hope that they will not translate my hesitation to support the bill as a moral surrender to behaviours and practices that we regard as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘sinful’ in our ethics and morality frameworks. I hope that they will translate my hesitations as shying away from endorsing a bill that will institutionalise violence and death to a minority group simply because the majority do not like them.”
Byamugisha believes he has an obligation to speak out against all forms of injustice.
“I realise that if I am happy to speak out against discrimination and stigma in relation to HIV, then I should also be happy to speak out against paralysing homophobia, sexism, tribalism, Puritanism, fundamentalism and against anything else that reduces and diminishes our love, care and support for each other as we travel the road of faith and belief.”
Joto La Jiwe, the author of this article, is a Ugandan correspondent for the African Human Rights Media Network. He writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at [email protected].