Right Reverend Christopher Senyonjo, an exiled Ugandan Bishop, has been traveling around the United States explaining how many people in his country feel about homosexuality. As Rev. Senyonjo puts it, the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda has caused great harm for LGBT people.
“There are people who believe that LGBT people are so sinful that they should be exterminated,” Rev. Senyonjo says.
Uganda is currently debating a harsh piece of legislation that criminalizes homosexuality with life imprisonment, and in some cases even the death penalty. But this anti-homosexuality bill does not just affect LGBT people. It also criminalizes straight people who support homosexuality. It requires that all Ugandans report suspected homosexuals, or face jail time.
Already in Uganda, supporters of LGBT equality face discrimination and threats. Rev. Senyonjo experienced these difficulties first-hand. Before retiring in 1998, Senyonjo was a bishop in the Anglican Church of Uganda. Shortly after his retirement, Uganda’s president called for increased criminalization against homosexuality. Senyonjo disagreed with the criminalization of homosexuality, and wanted to help out gay people in Uganda. He assisted in counseling young gay men, and soon became the chairperson of a gay support and advocacy group called Integrity Uganda.
The Anglican Church of Uganda denounced Integrity Uganda in March 2001, and Rev. Senyonjo became the target of personal attacks, including death threats. Rev. Senyonjo fled to the U.S., where he continues to advocate for gay rights and raise awareness about the Ugandan anti-homosexuality law.
Christopher Senyonjo spoke yesterday at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Hearing him speak about the situation in Uganda shed light on how difficult it is for anyone in Uganda — including straight allies — to stand up for LGBT equality.
But despite the many obstacles he has faced, Rev. Senyonjo has courageously supported the LGBT community at all costs. As Rev. Senyonjo said, “I have found LGBT people good people, loving people. They are not different.”
Indeed, straight allies like Rev. Senyonjo are vital in the fight for LGBT equality. And perhaps no more so than in countries like Uganda.
Photo credit: Integrity USA