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Uganda: War of words at David Kato's funeral puts spotlight on Anglican Church

Ugandan gay-rights advocate, David Kato, was slain on January 26, 2011. He was bludgeoned in his home with an iron bar 22 days after he won an injunction against the Rolling Stone newspaper that printed his name, along with the names of 99 other Ugandan homosexuals, under a banner stating “Hang Them.”

David's activism was boldly courageous in a country where homosexuality is illegal, and debate continues on a bill that would provide the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Despite the timing and the very visible role David played within the LGBT community in Uganda, Ugandan police refuse to consider this a hate crime.

Friends and family members attended David's funeral. Photo courtesy of AfroGay.

His death has brought out the voices of friends and foes alike.

Blogger and activist Val Kalende points to evidence that Kato was a clear target in the days leading up to his murder:

…what kind of thief robs, kills, and even remembers to leave the door of his victim under lock and key? Reports indicate that David's neighbors had to break the door to get him out only to find that he had been hammered on the head several times and left unconscious. How about the person who hacked David's Gmail account early this week to make us believe he was stranded in London and needed financial help? Was this all planned in advance by David's killer to make us send money to London thinking it was going to help our friend who was stranded?

She goes on to lay the blame for his murder at the feet of the American Evangelical Christians who came to Uganda in 2009:

David's death warrant was signed and stamped the day the Family Life Network of Uganda hosted American revisionist Scott Lively and his entourage of self-confessed gay men. Lively's time bomb has finally exploded and it's David's body on the altar of hate.

Truth Wins Out also points to American Evangelicals as a root cause of the ongoing harassment:

The situation intensified in 2009 when two “ex-gay” activists joined holocaust revisionist Scott Lively at a conference in Kampala to discuss the evils of homosexuality. Two weeks after the conference, Lively bragged that he had delivered a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” This was followed by the introduction of the harsh Anti-Homosexuality Bill and Uganda’s Rolling Stone tabloid (no relation to the American magazine) publishing Kato’s picture alongside other gay activists with the call to hang them.

After David Kato's funeral, however, it is the Anglican Church that is on the defensive. The Anglican leadership in Uganda has been very supportive of the anti-gay rhetoric, and according to blogger Gay Uganda, Ugandan Archbishop Orombi boycotted a recent meeting of worldwide Anglican leaders because of the American Bishop Shori's support of the ordination of a gay Bishop.

This attitude was also present at David Kato's funeral, where the presiding Anglican minister ranted against homosexuality. Afro Gay was at the funeral:

Barack Obama's letter lauding David Kato's work on the human rights of the downtrodden was read out loud – to gasps of wonderment that the president of the United States himself had taken the trouble to write a send-off for someone who was seemingly a nobody.The pride in the LGBT camp was palpable as the letter was read.

What followed was truly bizarre. Check out the chaotic scenes that followed the totally inappropriate and unseemly preacher's homophobic rant here. Asked to give a final homily before the body was carried to its resting place, the preacher launched an ugly anti-gay harangue that left everyone gasping in consternation. He pointed to the coffin, condemned David Kato to hell and demanded that all ‘abali bebisiyaga’ change their ways, repent or face the wrath of God. His vituperative language went on for about 3 minutes as the agitation mounted. Totally fed up, an already distraught member of the LGBT team went up to the preacher and yanked the microphone out of his hands, stood on a table and started a counter diatribe of her own. Undeterred, the preacher continued to yell about the hell awaiting the entire gay community. Bedlam ensued.

Truth Wins Out echoes this sentiment:

News reports say that villagers defended the preacher and a “scuffle” ensued. The local mob then refused to bury the body and it was left to gay activists to dispose of their friend’s remains.

The lack of empathy, human compassion, and respect for Kato’s body is astonishing. Only a spiritual cesspool with “religious” teachings ranging from vacuous-to-vaudeville-to-violent could produce such monsters. Is this really what religion has been reduced to in Uganda?

Ironically, the one figure that emerges as Christ-like is Kato.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the global Anglican leadership have since come out with statements condemning David Kato's murder as well as reiterating the importance of compassion within Christianity. Gay Uganda struggles with the role of the church:

Bishop Ssenyonjo was there to correct the hate that was spewed out of the official representative of the church….

Yes, Bishop Ssenyonjo. He kind of represents the other side of the Christian equation. There are those who believe, for show. And those who really believe in the ideals of their religion…

Should I continue bashing the church? Clearly, these primates people are Orombi's equal. Did I mention that the Bishop of Mukono is supposed to have come out supporting the homophobic preacher at Kato's funeral? And condemning Bishop Ssenyonjo for daring to show some love to us sinners?

Val Kalende leaves us with the thought that David Kato's influence will live on:

I believe that even if he is gone, David will always remain an active participant in our struggle for liberation…Like many great human rights defenders who have been slain, we may never find David's killer. But we can use this great loss of a brave activist to change the face of LGBT activism in Uganda.

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