January 28, 2011
It has been widely reported on Christian discussion sites and more recently in the newspapers that a Ugandan civil rights activist has been murdered in his home earlier this week. President Obama and the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton have both issued statements condemning this murder and the climate of bigotry and violence that surrounds it. The Archbishop of Canterbury, meeting with Anglican Primates in Dublin has today, (belatedly in the view of many), issued his own statement even as protestors outside the meeting were begging him to do so. The Primate of Uganda, Luke Henry Orombi is not in attendance because he doesn’t want to be I the room with the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
The slow and half-hearted condemnation of bigotry in the midst of a meeting marred by the absence of those in our church who foment such bigotry by their absence is both unfortunate and a disgrace.
That said, we must recognize that the Anglican Communion is only a ‘bit player’ in the Ugandan horror. If anything, Dr. Williams’ consistent efforts to keep Orombi In some kind of conversation had led to some statements, however muted, from some Ugandan bishops against a bill proposed in the Ugandan Parliament that would codify the outlawing of homosexuality and allow for the death penalty in some, (loosely defined) circumstances.
Inevitably, rather as we saw after the murder of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, there is a lot of finger pointing going on. The beleaguered gay community is clear that this is a hate crime against an outspoken activist who had been singled out along with a few others by a small circulation virulent newspaper who perpetuates the myth that homosexuals raid schools and recruit children. (The paper subsequently lost a lawsuit on the issue.) The police want to portray the crime as nothing but another robbery–murder in a notoriously bad area.
The chairperson of one gay rights group in that country, a Ms. Val Kalende, has blamed American evangelicals who visited in 2009 led m by a man called Don Schmierer. He is accused of holding rallies and meeting with Ugandan officials of how gay men sodomize teenage boys and how the gay movement is an institution intended to defeat the marriage based society. Mr. Schmierer is ‘horrified’, feels like a victim of prejudice himself, says he offered parenting classes and “spoke to help people.”
Whatever influence Mr. Schmierer had in shaping the proposed Ugandan laws which are still under consideration but on hold thanks to threats in aid cuts from foreign nations, any responsibility he might bear is not a direct cause and effect kind of responsibility. Viruletn laws condemning homosexuality are to be found throughout the African Continent and especially in the East.
People of good will clearly have a role to play in protesting this insanity and making clear that prejudice in any form leads to violence in many forms. The hard work of creating a climate in which gun violence is abhorred and made difficult is part of that work in many places in this world. So is creating climates that do not solve disagreement with abuses of power. So are many other things. What we know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that those in power resist any notion of climate change. Those in power profit from the way things are. That is how we get our power.
In the church we are by no means immune to a dislike of change when it seems to affect our lives which are hard enough without someone monkeying with the balance of them. No0netheless, we also know what grace there can be for everybody when those who are currently held back, held down, threatened, persecuted and the like are set free and assisted in becoming full participants in the community which is more fully human itself because of their participation.