Friday, February 11, 2011

Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo


this is one Christian whose witness I love.

I had wondered why he had not spoken since David was killed. Of course he was at the funeral, and completed he prayers for David Kato. But, you know..... I was like, I expected him. At the vigil, he was not able to attend.
Happens with leaders. In times of stress, you want to know that they are there with you, holding your hand, so to say.....

He has come out with a statement.

This guy is 78 years plus. An elderly man who is retired from his major work. I was not happy when I saw his photo on the 'Hang Them' issue of the Rolling pebble..... But, he is there, for us, in ways that we cannot be.
The bishop’s statement is an open letter to the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and fellow bishops of the 70 million strong Anglican Communion. The statement calls for the Anglican Church to be more aggressive in its protection of human rights, particularly in Africa where significant support for continued criminalization of homosexuality is coming from religious leaders. The Anglican Church of Uganda with its 10 million members has been supportive of the recent Bahati Bill which is proposing more harsh sentences and calls for family members to report on suspected LGBT people. The Church has made public statements where they are critical of applying internationally recognized human rights standards to the LGBT community in Uganda. The bishop joins other Anglican bishops including three bishops in New York who responded to the Kato murder with a similar call for greater religious advocacy in the face of anti-gay legislation and increasing violence.
Hey, I know that Pastor Dr Martin 'eat da poo poo' Ssempa reads this blog. Good for you sir. Now, this is Christian witness that makes me think that there might be something in religion....!

Hey, I am not Christian... and, I tend to play up my lack of religion.

But, seriously, I am heartened by the way that Christian groups have actually come out to speak out against the homophobia that is driven by people like Dr 'eat da poo poo' above. It is the kind of drawing the line in the sand which the 'brothers and sisters' who claim sibling status to our countrymates who persecute us in Uganda. And, they cannot but 'hear' their brothers and sisters in faith. Oh yes, they will run and want to hide, and they will try, and try not to hear.... But, they will listen to you, Christians... LOL, they cannot hide from your shared faith, as a matter of fact. And, we Africans are very religious.

Here is the letter. It is very much worth reading to the full.

Open Letter from Bishop Christopher Senyonjo to Archbishop Rowan Williams
An open letter to the Anglican Communion on the place of human rights in communities of faith by Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, Retired Bishop of West Buganda and Director of the St. Paul’s Centre for Equality and Reconciliation, Kampala. February 8th 2011
Dear Archbishop Rowan Williams, Primates and fellow bishops, clergy and people of our diverse Anglican Communion.
Peace from God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I give thanks on behalf of the family and friends of David Kato for your love and prayers at this difficult time. All over the world, human beings are longing for liberation, love, respect and the dignity to have meaningful lives. This week alone, we witnessed it in Egypt .We also see this longing in the struggle for human rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people (LGBT) through the sacrificial life and death of David Kato. As human beings, we must respect our differences and be united in our call for listening and sharing with each other. To understand God, we are all called to understand the mystery of each other, including our sexualities. God has given us this gift and to defame, condemn, imprison and kill human beings because of their God-given nature, is a great human error. The church has a tragic history of condemning Jews, Moslems, scientists and LGBT people. Our teaching and theology has a causal effect and if we do not learn from our own historical mistakes, we will repeat the same sinful destruction of lives, families and communities.
When European churches failed to protect minority communities during World War II, people were sent to the gas chambers and concentration camps.  Many religious people in Europe emerged from that experience to help create the Declaration of Human Rights. We now have sixty years of building an internationally recognised framework for the protection of human rights in every country.  If Anglicans in one country dehumanize, persecute and imprison minorities, we must be true to the Gospel and challenge such assaults on basic human rights. They key to our ministry must be to educate our people and encourage LGBT people to tell their stories and the impact of homophobia in their lives. Listening to the stories of LGBT people was the beginning of my own transformation. This work of understanding the phenomenon of human sexuality should be taken seriously in our theological seminaries and schools. The clergy should be well equipped to serve and not to ignorantly repel the people of God. A required course in Human Sexuality should be required of all seminarians and clergy.
Many African countries imprison LGBT people because of who they are.  As a bishop in the midst of those countries, I am now a shepherd caring for the lost sheep that are persecuted by the Church and threatened by a pending anti-homosexual draconian bill in Uganda. I preach the new covenant of Jesus Christ sealed in love as we read in John 15:12. This is the heart of the Gospel-the Good News. This sacrifice of Love is mocked when sister churches tolerate or promote the violation of basic human rights. Life and liberty are at risk and we must hold each other accountable. A loving Anglican Communion should not keep quiet when the Rolling Stone tabloid in Uganda openly supports the “hanging of the homos,” including a fellow bishop who pleads for their inclusion and non-discrimination! Silence has the power to kill. We have witnessed its destruction this past week in the tragic and cruel murder of David Kato.
We African Anglicans have a rich and powerful history of speaking out on human rights in the most difficult of situations.  Bishop Colenso worked with Zulus to establish an indigenous church while being fought by his fellow English bishops.  Bishops Trevor Huddleston, John Taylor and Desmond Tutu resisted Apartheid. We must not demean our great tradition by oppressing LGBT minorities under any circumstances, even to maintain Anglican unanimity. The criminalization of homosexuality remains the greatest state and church sanctioned violence perpetrated against LGBT people and their allies in many countries. We must agree to demolish all forms of institutional homophobia beginning with the removal of all laws that punish human beings for being gay or living in loving relationships. This will be the first step in providing basic human rights to a largely invisible international community who live in daily fear of their lives.
So in thanksgiving for the unity and commitment we have together, let us continue to listen to one another, to protect the vulnerable and marginalized within our own societies and to bring our collective wisdom to the work of repairing the world and correcting the great injustices in our local communities.
Here is some commentary from Religious Dispatches.
Standing by the graveside of slain Uganda gay rights advocate David Kato at the end of last month, many of the gays and lesbians in attendance at his funeral wept. They were grieving the death of a beloved friend and mentor but they were also shaken by the interruption of the ceremony by a homophobic pastor, who told them that they were all destined for hell. The local pastor exhorted on homosexuals to repent or be punished by God before the microphone was snatched away one of Kato’s supporters.
It might have seemed that the last person the activist’s friends would turn to for support at the moment would be another religious leader. Especially given that the church in Uganda was at the head of the drive for the draconian anti-homosexuality bill still pending in Parliament.
But 79-year-old Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, in his purple cassock and small wire-rim glasses, stood at the head of a huddle of Kato’s friends and supporters, many of them in black T-shirts bearing the image of their beloved leader. “I know that some [gays and lesbians] are discouraged and even not going to church because they are being abused. Even today they are being abused. But please don’t be discouraged. God created you and God is on your side,” said perhaps the only member of Uganda’s clergy ministering to the LGBT community. 

Oh, yes. There are some Christians, who are really Christians. And, they dare stand up and speak even when it will cost them. And cost them a lot.

From this non-believer, that is Christian witness!



Maria said...

I started following your blog after I heard it mentioned in Jide Mccaulay's facebook page. I admire your passion and I love your strenght, I do not have any knowledge on sexual discrimination since I am hetro, but I know that in God's eyes we are all equal and all his children. No one has a right to judge another, in Mathew 7 it said 'donot judge for you would be judged, the measure you give the measure you receive'. No one has the right to hurt another human being and watching 'eat the poo poo' clip on you tube showed me that we have reached the end times, where false prophets rise up and incite hatred for othrs, do not give on God Paul, despite how much you hurt..

Hélder António said...

«You may be different from me. Myself, I am straight, I’m not LGBT, but I have known these people who are LGBT. I respect them for what they are and I believe they are going to Heaven. Like you others they are going to Heaven. If they don’t believe, that is another matter, but if they are believers, don’t be discouraged. I know people have been discouraged even not going to Church, because they are abused as I found today, people are abusing them. Please don’t be discouraged. God created you. God is on your side. And God – this is the gospel I am preaching.» (Christopher Ssenyonjo at the funeral of David Kato Kisule, January 28, 2011)

«Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation. (...)
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family. (...)
Uganda’s parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.
These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.
Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.
And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said “Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.” Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.
(...) No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family.(...)
The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.» (Desmond Tutu, THE WASHINGTON POST, March 12, 2010)

Have a good weekend, gug.

KTBlogs! said...

Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your struggle. After the senseless murder of Kato, I have vowed to do whatever I can here in the U.S. to make sure that we do not forget nor do we stop worrying about the fate of LGBT people in Uganda. I will be following your blog closely and sharing it with friends. Please let me know how I can be of assistance.

Edwin Black said...

It is heartening to hear that influential Christian voices are speaking out in favour of human rights in Uganda despite a hostile media and oppressive political regime. I do hope that Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo’s letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams makes a difference.

Williams has already described the issue of homosexuality as ‘a wound in the whole ministry’. In context, he referred to the ordination of gay clergy. On a personal level, he appears sympathetic towards gay (and indeed all) people. However, I fear that he will - at least partly - appease the Conservative elements in order to prevent further widening of the schism in his church. So what’s new eh...?

I live in hope that Christianity can affect change for the betterment of humanity at large. Unfortunately, I also see it as part of the problem (in its fundamentalist guises). Perhaps it’s time for an ethics system that focussed more on the human being and less upon archaic gods? But now I’m straying from the point!

Best wishes Gug. You’re a real inspiration!


R. N. Taber said...

Rowan Wiliams seems a nice enough guy but (in my view) ineffective when it comes to establishing the Human Rights and integrity of gay people, not only in the Christian Church but also in repressive regimes world-wide. The position he occupies means that, if he so wished or had the guts, he could be a real force for good. Sadly, he prefers to sit on the fence (in case he tears his cassock while climbing down?) It is a tragedy of the 21st century that there are far too many people in positions of power and/or authority here in the West who COULD make a REAL difference to gay people in places like Uganda but fret about offending the less enlightened heterosexual majority; unenlightened but also a significant source of income. Take the humanity out of religion and what's left is not worth having. We are all part of a common humanity. We can but pull together as we have always done and trust that it will, in time, win the day over socio-cultural-religious bigotry, hypocrisy, ignorance and self-indulgence. In the meantime gay people world-wide are living in fear of persecution for their sexuality. Those speaking out risk imprisonment and/or death. The (civilised?) world should hang its head in shame. When I was a youth and young man, homosexuality was a crime here in the UK. That was many years ago. Yes, I have been able to be openly gay for some years. Even so,I carry many emotional and psychological scars. I am appalled that half a century later, gay people in parts of the world like Uganda are enduring the same torment (and far worse) as I did. Wishing you all love and peace. - Roger T

Jackrabbit said...

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo has just become my newest hero thanks to your blog. Thank you for sharing this!

As a Christian who works for LGBT equality in my own community, hearing a man of such influence say these things made my heart sing for joy. My own church is very conservative sometimes and I sometimes feel like I'm very alone in what I do. When my LGBT friends meet tomorrow, I want to read them this letter.

The Bible says that people who say they love God and hate their brothers are liars, and they don't know the truth. So, if you compare Bishop Senyonjo to Ssempa, I think it's easy to see the truth about the hate-mongers in our society who use religion (any religion, really,) to justify their violence.

Take care, gug!

Anonymous said...

Can the learned Doctor Christopher explain why God acted the way He did in Genesis 19:23-29

Was the word love as implied in John 15:12 not yet unknown to God in those years? Certainly not!!

It is time to separate human weakness from human rights/Liberties. Should the world just look on as every one goes thieving because it is human nature to steal? Sorry, a thief must be reprimanded instead of allowing him/her to contaminate others with the vice.
Without mincing words, LGBT acts are human weaknesses that even lower ranked animals do not ascribe to. Correct me if I am wrong, I have not heard of Gay or lesbian Apes/monkeys etc.!!!!!. What a shame to humans!!

Do not be fooled by anyone, the bible is clear in many places that Homosexuality is an abomination and no participant will inherit the kingdom unless he/she repents. References: 1Corinthians 6:9, Revelations 21:8, etc.

From his calling and training, Dr.Christopher should know that it is another sin to compromise with sin while creatively interpreting scripture

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