Uganda’s LGBTI-Friendly Religious Leaders

Uganda’s LGBTI-Friendly Religious Leaders

FORWARD-THINKING FAITH LEADERS

Homophobia is a severe problem in many African churches, but not all Christian leaders are infected by it, as Kuchu Times points out.

“We see Jesus identifying with every person. We see Jesus teaching love, but we don’t see Jesus teaching to discriminate, and so those using [the Bible] to condemn and persecute LGBTI people have gone astray. You are not going to heaven because of your sexual orientation or who you hold hands with. You are going to heaven because you are God’s child and because of his grace. God loves every person.” — Pastor Samson Turinawe (Barigye Ambrose photo courtesy of Kuchu Times)

At that Ugandan publication, human rights activist Barigye Ambrose recently profiled several religious leaders who preach a gospel of acceptance and love. These are some excerpts:

Uganda’s LGBTI-friendly faith leaders say God’s love is unconditional

By Barigye Ambrose

In Uganda, despite stigma and legal prohibitions, the gender and sexual minority movement has grown into a formidable force fighting for the realization of equality for all citizens. This fight has been met by strong resistance from most religious leaders and anti-gay advocates who argue that same-sex relations are a threat to traditional African family values and that they deserve no place in the predominantly Christian.

Homophobic ideas have united different religious sects, political parties, and the general public. Muslim, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostal and leaders of traditional religions have all united to fight LGBTI rights and preached sermons that label homosexuality as an evil practice among unholy people who need spiritual and sacred cleansing.

Such rhetoric has led some religious LGBTI Ugandans and their straight allies to denounce or abandon their faiths while others work to spiritually nourish their peers.

Here we profile leaders and allies of the Ugandan LGBTI community who have kept their faith when religious leaders disowned them.

“Let us spread the word of God without divisionism because salvation is by grace and we have to understand that we are diverse and God is the only judge.” — Brian Byamukama (Barigye Ambrose photo courtesy of Kuchu Times)

God doesn’t focus on gender or sexuality — Brian Byamukama

Brian Byamukama is a pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Mbale district, Eastern Uganda, and a human rights defender who works on LGBTI issues. He is the founder and Executive Director of Rural Movement Initiative (RUMI), an organization protecting marginalized people in Mbale district. Brian is an out bisexual man married to a woman, with whom he has one daughter. …

Brian believes there is no fundamental difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships as long as both are built on love. According to this preacher, God doesn’t focus on gender or sexuality but rather on the human being. …

Preach the gospel of inclusiveness — The Rev. Patrick Leuben Mukajanga

“Because of the nature of my work and my openness while advocating for the rights of LGBTI people, I have suffered many forms of discrimination from my immediate neighbors. I have kept strong despite these challenges.” — The Rev. Patrick Leuben Mukajanga (Barigye Ambrose photo courtesy of Kuchu Times)

The Rev. Patrick Leuben Mukajanga is the founder and executive director of Saint Paul’s Voice Centre of Uganda (SPAVOC), a Christian-based NGO that partners with local and international organizations to fight against the discrimination of LGBTI people in Uganda. Patrick is an out gay advocate for the rights of sexual minorities and a Christian who has dedicated his life to preaching the gospel of love to those that feel abandoned because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Most religious leaders in Uganda consider same-sex relations evil.  This has been witnessed during various religious “crusades” in which pastors and other evangelicals call upon the general public to fight homosexuals with all their might because they believe they contradict African family values. Patrick advises these leaders to preach the gospel of inclusiveness and to leave judgment to God. For his work, Patrick was awarded the Makwan Prize for Human Rights in 2013. Patrick said he has been ostracized and attacked by angry residents of his home district of Ibanda in western Uganda and threatened and arrested by police on charges of promoting homosexuality. …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God loves us despite our sins — Diana Sydney Bakuraira

“However much the world does not understand me, my God does and he is the only person who will judge me and the only one who holds the truth and the answers. So, for me to keep in touch with my faith is quite important as a Christian.” — Diane Sydney Bakuraira (Barigye Ambrose photo courtesy of Kuchu Times)

Diane Sydney Bakuraira, better known as “Didi Baks” in the Ugandan LGBTI community, is an out lesbian woman, a trained paralegal and administrative officer at the Kampala-based NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).

Born and raised in a Christian family, she was taught that God loves us despite our sins. Although religious persecution of sexual minorities has caused her to question her faith at times, she believes that only God can judge us.

Diane uses social media platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook to share scriptures of encouragement with her followers and to encourage them not to lose hope in the face of persecution. She does the same offline at LGBTI community gatherings. …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God loves every person — Pastor Samson Turinawe

Universal Love Ministries marches to end violence against women and sexual minorities. (Photo courtesy of CrowdRise.com)

Pastor Samson Turinawe is the founder and director of Universal Love Ministries, a charity based in Kampala that preaches for the inclusion of LGBTI persons. After his graduation from Life Bible School in 2005, Turinawe ministered in a Pentecostal church as a youth pastor in Bushenyi, western Uganda. By 2006, his congregants started openly discussing sexual minorities, and the church that he was administering started expelling suspected LGBTI members.

Convinced that these members should be heard and understood rather than banished, he stood in their defense and eventually parted ways with the church. …

His own banishment from the church inspired Samson to create a space where sexual minorities would be free to express themselves without prejudice and where he could educate religious leaders about the gospel of love, tolerance and acceptance of sexual minorities. Thus, was born Universal Love Ministries, which educates religious leaders on gender identity, sex orientation and spirituality. Samson believes most preachers who spread messages of intolerance towards LGBTI people do so because they lack knowledge about them and that these sensitization programs can help them learn more about SOGIE issues.

Samson also educates religious leaders on how to contextually interpret the Bible in ways that respect all people. …

“We see Jesus identifying with every person. We see Jesus teaching love, but we don’t see Jesus teaching to discriminate, and so those using [the Bible] to condemn and persecute LGBTI people have gone astray. You are not going to heaven because of your sexual orientation or who you hold  hands with. You are going to heaven because you are God’s child and because of his grace. God loves every person.” — Pastor Samson Turinawe

“The only problem we have is a lack of education, and some people are not willing to learn and understand deeply the concept of sexuality and gender identity. Once people embrace and research more about these issues, homophobia will be eliminated gradually in society.” — Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (Barigye Ambrose photo courtesy of Kuchu Times)

God loves all his creatures without discrimination — Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is a retired Anglican Bishop in the Church of Uganda who has dedicated his life to defending marginalized people, especially LGBTI Ugandans, through counseling and spiritual refurbishment programs. He is the founder of St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equality Centre (SPREC), which aims to reconcile heterosexual and LGBTIQ persons.

His open declaration for support of sexual minorities prompted the Anglican Church to bar him for supporting what peers consider “ungodly.” This didn’t stop him. Senyonjo believes God loves all his creatures without any form of discrimination, and this is evidenced in Jesus’ gospel of loving one another. …

 

 

For more information, read the full article in Kuchu Times, “Uganda’s LGBTI faith leaders say God’s love is unconditional.”

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