[Marxism] A gay witch hunt in Uganda
binesi at gvtel.com
Fri Nov 27 10:03:59 MST 2009
A gay witch hunt in Uganda
Why are the English archbishops silent over Uganda's grotesque
A bill currently before the Ugandan parliament (pdf)
proposes seven year prison sentences for discussing homosexuality; life
imprisonment for homosexual acts; and death for a second offence. Sober
observers believe it will be passed. The Anglican church in Uganda
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/uganda> appears to support it, and the
Church of England in this country is absolutely silent. The Archbishop
of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester solemnly denounce violence in
the Congo <http://bit.ly/5MxtfP>, where they have no influence at all,
but on Uganda they maintain a resolute post-colonial silence.
The position of the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/john-sentamu>, is more complicated, and
his silence more eloquent. He is himself Ugandan by birth. One of his
younger half-brothers, pastor Robert Kayanja, is a highly successful
pentecostal preacher in Kampala <http://bit.ly/5aVbMk>, running a church
called the Rubaga Miracle Centre. Such people are highly rewarded, and
the business is extremely competitive. A rival preacher, the gloriously
named Solomon Male of the The Arising Church was accused this spring of
kidnapping Kayanga's assistant <http://bit.ly/7VIZ2w> and torturing him
for five days to get him to confess that his boss was gay
<http://bit.ly/4JnJg7> and partial to young men.
The admission would have been social death. Come to think of it, under
the new law, it would be physical death as well.
Sentamu's office say that he has not spoken to his brother for some
months and was unaware of the story. So the suggestion on some websites
that this was the cause of his silence can't be right. On the other
hand, his office is quite clear that he has "no plans" to speak out on
the proposed bill.
Perhaps the English Archbishops feel their position is already clear.
Sentamu, Williams, and Archbishop Henry Orombe of Uganda along with all
the other primates of the Anglican Communion all signed up to a
communique in 2004 <http://www.anglicanessentials.ca/dromantine.htm> in
which they stated that
We continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and
care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of
human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of
the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that
they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of
the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.
Compare and contrast the language of the Ugandan bill:
A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in
acts of homosexuality commits an offence and is liable on conviction
to imprisonment for seven years.
A person who purports to contract a marriage with another person of
the same sex commits the offence of homosexuality and shall be
liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
A person who … who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or
in any way abets homosexuality and related practices; commits an
offence and is liable on conviction to … imprisonment of a minimum
of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and
One reasons why the church might be reluctant to oppose, let alone
anathematise, this monstrous law is that any NGO or body which does so
might be prosecuted for "promoting homosexuality" can be dissolved and
its leaders jailed for seven years. Failure to report homosexuality or
its incitement gets you three years.
This is a witch craze, pure and simple. It takes the perfectly genuine
prejudices of the ignorant, inflames them, and enshrines them in law. I
do not expect any bishop of the Church of England to have the courage to
speak against it. Give them a hundred years, though, and they will turn
up at a memorial service to weep for the victims.
How did we get there?
The inquisitors who roll into the town and rouse the peasantry against
witches may not actually want to see and smell the witches burning, but
once witches are found, there is nothing else to do with them. Although
respectable Christians now do not believe in witches as such, there are
some for whom gay people play the role that witches once did and the
gay-hunting frenzy which is central to the the relationship between
American right-wingers and some African evangelicals is reaching the
point of organised legal killing.
The left-wing American think-tank PRA has just published a report on the
activities of the rightwing American thinktank The Institute for
Religion and Democracy <http://bit.ly/8qWveD>, which has for much of the
last 10 years been successfully recruiting homophobic African Christians
to the civil wars within American protestantism which have tended to
concentrate on equal rights for gays.
Some of this story is familiar to Guardian readers. The American right
funded and organised the disintegration of the Anglican Communion as a
part of its efforts to break up the Episcopal Church of America. But the
report teaches us that there are real advantages to African churches or
at least their leaders, who take money from the right rather than the
left. There is much less bureaucracy, or accountability as it is spelled
in the west. But the sheer blatancy of the process is still sometimes a
shock. The report has a photograph of the mobile phones handed out for
free at a world United Methodist conference, along with the slate of
approved conservative candidates to vote for.
We can't know whether the protests of Anglican leaders outside Uganda
will make the bill more or less likely to pass. There is a history in
recent years of nationalist thugs in the region using western support
for gay rights <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gay-rights> to increase
their own popularity as homophobes. This has happened in a church
context both in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and it might very well happen again
in Uganda. So it is possible to argue quite reasonably in favour of
doing nothing, or quiet diplomacy as it is known in the trade.
But I don't think these arguments are in the end convincing, and for
three reasons. The first is that the situation could hardly be worse. If
nothing is done, the bill will very probably pass. So the worst that any
intervention could accomplish is to fail to prevent what we are trying
to stop, rather than bringing it about. The second is that the Anglican
church of Uganda is not really part of the same communion any longer as
the Church of England. It was one of the driving forces behind the
Gafcon <http://www.gafcon.org/> meeting last summer. The third, and the
most important one, is that the Church of England needs to retain some
connection with the generally accepted morality of the nation around it.
These days, killing gay people for having sex is no longer regarded as a
moral act. It may be that the Ugandan church will excuse itself by
saying that it cannot flout Ugandan public opinion. But why should the
Church of England be allowed to flout English concepts of decency by
acquiescing with its silence in this crime?
Posted by Andrew Brown <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/andrewbrown>
Thursday 26 November 2009 14.30 GMT guardian.co.uk
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