Rev. Canon Albert Ogle: “A Call to Action” and Tribute to David Kato
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
In October of last year, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo’s picture appeared on a Ugandan Tabloid called “Rolling Stone”. The tabloid printed names and addresses of leadingLGBT people and their allies. It called for the police to arrest them or the mob to take the existing anti-gay laws into their own hands and to “Hang them”. The second picture on the front cover was of David Kato who workedfor Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), part of the Civil Coalition that is allied with Bishop Christopher’s St. Paul’sReconciliation and Equality Centre in Kampala. All 34organizations opposed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and David Kato worked tirelessly for its defeat. David wase ducated in Human Rights and International Law at York University in the United Kingdom and since 2004, has been one of the leading voices for Human Rights in Uganda until his life was taken from him last week.
There is still some confusion surrounding thecircumstances of his murder. The Ugandan government andpolice are claiming it was a result of a robbery while thehuman rights and international community are concernedit was a direct result of the rising tide of homophobiathat was manifested most clearly in the Rolling Stonecall to execution. It is also unclear as to the sources offunding for the Tabloid. There is concern that ChristianAmerican Fundamentalists have mounted a concertedeffort to increase the penalties against LGBT people and further divide the Ugandan community through lies andmisinformation as we see in this Tabloid. The Editor, GilesMuhame told the Ugandan Daily Monitor yesterday thatalthough he sympathized with the family of the bereaved,Kato was a victim of his own “evil” actions. “He broughtdeath upon himself. He hasn’t lived carefully. Kato was ashame to this country,” he said.
President Obama and leaders of many European countriesare calling for an investigation. Many of us believe thisinvestigation needs to be independent and to includean investigation into the funding of a wider anti-gaymovement. Initial research has exposed the role ofprominent Washington politicians and church leaders,particularly with connections to a secretive movement thathas come to be known as “the Family”.
As a result of this anti-gay campaign over the past 15 years,the deeper implications for the Obama Administration andthe State Department make a strong case to review the US’scontinued support of a government that continues to failto protect all its citizens and whose violations of humanrights is well documented. Half the Ugandan Government’sbudget is dependent on foreign aid. It is presently illegalto provide HIV prevention and health services to LGBTpeople. This is one example of inequality and persecutionthat is supported by US taxpayers. This institutionalinequality is the root cause of violence and hatred that wasthe likely motivation for David Kato’s murder. The onlylegacy that can truly honor David’s sacrifice is to help those people in Uganda who are calling us to partner withthem to bring about a state of equality.
The role of the church is also critical. On Thursday atDavid’s funeral, the Anglican Church of Uganda sent nopriest or no bishop to conduct his Funeral Rites. A localLay Reader used the occasion to present the Church’steaching on homosexuality. Bishop Christopher wasthere (dressed in his Anglican purple cassock) and wasignored by the Master of Ceremonies even though hehad asked for a moment to speak. The Bishop told mehe felt uncomfortable as the funeral was turned into apolitical rally and stirred up more persecution of the LGBT community, even at such a time of grief and anger atDavid’s demise. Finally, a young lesbian co-worker ofDavid’s took the mic and called for an end of this kindof judgementalism from the church. David’s friends andfamily then took the coffin and the Bishop walked behindit to the graveside where he gave comfort to the mourners,told them of the inclusive love of God and said the finalblessing over David’s battered remains.
There were two churches at that graveside on this historicday. It is important for us to realize the implications ofthese conflicting messages from both churches is part ofthe problem that is causing people to suffer. We share inthis “culture war” and what does that mean for us, here atSt. Paul’s Cathedral? What does it mean for the churcheswho meet in close proximity to us – even churches withinour own Episcopal Diocese, or communities like Skyline and “The Rock Church” here in San Diego. How do weshare deeply in a process that addresses the root causes offear and hatred of LGBT people? David Kato’s tragic endand the circumstances surrounding it force us to ask thesedifficult questions right here in our own home-towns allover the USA.
While we engage in serious dialogue with those who differfrom us, we have to support those inclusive voices likeChristopher’s where the Good News of God’s equality isproclaimed even in the most difficult of situations. Today,I will be colecting contact information from people whowould like to discuss these questions in more depth andhow we can move forward.I end with two messages of hope – one from Today’sSunday Monitor in Uganda and a prayer (the Collect fromour Book of Common Prayer commemorating the witnessof the Ugandan Martyrs).
“What we need is an honest national dialogue onhomosexuality in order to forge a consensus on the rightsof those Ugandans who choose to be gay and those whooppose homosexuality as a lifestyle.
Holding puritanical and extreme views on the matter,whether liberal or conservative, will divide us, rather thanhelp us find a mutually acceptable compromise. People like David Kato and others who might be gay are Ugandans and enjoy the same rights and protections ofthe law as heterosexuals. We cannot send them into exileneither, lock them away, or hang them.
We need to have an honest discussion about how to ensurethat their rights are upheld without violating the rights ofother Ugandans.
Peaceful and stable societies only emerge when we understand and try to accommodate those who are differentfrom us, or who disagree with us – not by ostracizing or killing them.”
I invite the congregation to stand:
Let us pray as we commend the life and witness of DavidKato his Creator.
O God, by your providence the blood of the martyrs isthe seed of the Church: Grant that we who rememberbefore you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, likethem, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, towhom they gave obedience, even unto death, and bytheir sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; throughJesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns withyou and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Amen.
Donations to assist the Bishop’s work for equality may be made through the St.Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation at http://stpaulsfoundation.com/Donate.html