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David Kato’s murder has left an indelible scar in the hearts of LGBT people everywhere in the same way Matthew Shepard's killing "pulled back the curtains for a while" on the darkness of global homophobia.
Kato’s death wounded us collectively. But the wound is healing.The mark of authentic Christianity is not in the prosperity gospel or in packed churches but in always experienced in the wounds of the one Risen One. Jesus shows his disciples his scars as proof of his authenticity.
A year on from David’s death, the community of God’s inclusive love also shows the healing wounds of global homophobia. The scars are marks of our collective authenticity.
I am reflecting on our global journey for LGBT inclusion on the first anniversary of David's death. We had some major successes. The Human Rights Council report to the United Nations in December was the highest level account of the effects of globalized homophobia. From school bullying to being criminalized or executed in five countries, the levels of violence and intimidation of millions of people is beginning to see the light of day.
Secretary Clinton's historic speech on the U.S. commitment to LGBT rights globally, given in Geneva in December, was another significant moment as we reflect on where we have come in a year from David's killing.
Uganda – a year since David Kato's murder
The Bahati bill, also known as the “Kill The Gays” bill, still hangs over the LGBT community in Uganda like a two-edged sword. It is an evil piece of legislation and we must never forget it was sanctioned by the Anglican Church in East Africa and born in sin with American funding.
We need to keep shining a light on the church’s leading role in deliberately misinforming people about homosexuality and using the state to punish them. On the other hand, the threat of the bill did more to galvanize human rights and North-South collaboration than anything we have seen to come out of Africa to help LGBT people.
David Bahati forced us all to come out. Ugandan LGBT activist Frank Mugisha told me the phone kept ringing and ringing at Sexual Minorities Uganda following the bill’s introduction. The calls were from Ugandans who were coming out!
The hidden nature of LGBT criminalization is now in the public domain. Clergy are preaching about it. People around the world can now put a number on how many countries criminalize LGBT people - 76. Bishop Christopher Senyonjo's St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equality Centre in Kampala now has eight full-time staff supported by San Diego’s St. Paul's Foundation for International Reconciliation and the hundreds of donors we recently met on the tour of the UK and U.S.
Momentum is building. San Francisco and London Pride’s theme for 2012 is “Global Equality” and other Pride celebrations need to do the same.
I learned so much this summer at the UN AIDS meetings as governments met to develop the global plan for HIV. American religious homophobia almost derailed the inclusion of language that would help give more access to prevention and services. This was an eye-opening moment for me to see the level of sabotage certain religious organizations will encourage to support their theological viewpoints.
David Kato was not only an advocate for LGBT rights, but he saw the connection between the need to provide access and healthcare to prevent HIV infection in LGBT people. He worked in HIV before doing his human rights work and clearly they were connected for him and his constituents. He would be very proud of the work the bishop and the HIV project staff are doing.
Staff members are making some headway to train healthcare professionals to include them in their services. So in reflection, David's death was a catalyst to shine light and compassion on people and institutional violence that most of us were unaware. Light-bulb moments are moments of interior illumination. There have been millions of light-bulb moments for people all over the world on LGBT issues.
Uganda is quietly moving forward and the Civil Society Coalition and the work of the St. Paul's Centre are all positive indications that our collaboration and support of these stellar organizations needs to continue and deepen.
The Spirit of 76
I am focusing for the next six months on a plan to bring representatives of the other 75 countries where it is also illegal to be LGBT so they can attend a faith conference and the World AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July. We need $400,000 to make these important connections. We are looking for parishes, individuals and organizations to sponsor a person for 10 days at a cost of $3,500 each.
I will be in Washington from Feb. 4 to 13 to organize a hospitality committee where our 76 guests will stay in the homes of different faith communities and be invited to address congregations about the dire situation they face. This 10-day experience will be a transformational moment for Washington as we listen to their stories and ask the simple questions: "When will this end for millions of LGBT people and how do we get there?"
For more information on the Washington conferences and how to support "The Spirit of 76" initiative, please visit HERE.
I spoke to Bishop Christopher by phone this morning and he told me about the beautiful memorial service held for David on Thursday. The bishop has a cold and had lost his voice but has certainly not lost his spirit. He has more support than ever.
The movement for global decriminalization is growing and the light of hope is shining in the darkness. David Kato remains a significant part of the light of this past year. He has become what John’s Gospel describes as a transformative energy: “A light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
RGOD2, written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, looks at faith and religion from an LGBT point of view. Ogle is known around the world for his work in support of LGBT rights and HIV-prevention efforts. He is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE.