Today, Uganda’s parliament session is closing for the Christmas break, and did not pass the “Kill the Gays Bill” Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga promised as a “Christmas gift.” However, it will still be on the table when parliament resumes in January.
However, yesterday, Speaker Kadaga was out of the country, leading a delegation of Uganda legislators to the Vatican for, of all things, the World Parliamentary Congress on Human Rights. While there, Speaker Kadaga was able to have a personal audience with the Pope, where she received a blessing.
As an LGBT Christian who has been raising the flag on the plight of LGBT people in Uganda, I have so many mixed feelings about news story. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been specifically targeting the purpose driven pastor, Rick Warren, to speak out against the bill. That’s because Rick Warren has incredible popularity in Uganda, is known and respected. I also have made Rick Warren my focus because he’s accessible. He’s in the United States. He sees the media and will hopefully see our pleas to help the Ugandan people.
But then there is the Pope. I’m pretty sure the Pope doesn’t read the GLAAD blog, or anything that we say concerning him. The Pope named marriage equality as a “threat to peace” in a recent sermon at a tree lighting ceremony. He is no champion for LGBT people. And now we see a photo of him offering a blessing to the person who is determined to bring the death or imprisonment to all of Uganda's LGBT people, as well as any and all supportive family members or friends.
We don’t know exactly what words were exchanged between Speaker Kadaga and the Pope. As a part of the visit, the Ugandan delegation presented a portrait of Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, who were killed for their faith. I'm quite sure that David Kato and other LGBT people who have been killed for being gay were not included in that photo. I can also probably safely bet that the Pope didn't specifically bless the "kill the gays" bill, but this photo op, at this time, under these circumstances, really turns my stomach.
This bill has been in existence for three years now. While LGBT people in Uganda live in constant fear that their government will turn the laws of the land even further against them, the US media is growing tired of telling the same story of “not yet, but it could happen”. Religious leaders, who spoke up in 2009, including Rick Warren and the Vatican, don’t feel that same urgency that everyone once did. And now, LGBT people around the world have been taunted by a photo of the person who wishes to ensure their destruction receiving a blessing from one of the world’s biggest spiritual leaders.
I honestly don’t know how to end this commentary. I’m silently shaking my head at my computer. This must stop. Sign the All Out petition (they provided the graphic that asks the most pertinent question right now). Sign the Groundswell Peition aimed at US denominations. Ask companies, politicians, and religious leaders, whose voices are bigger than yours to speak out for the people of Uganda. Living under the threat of this law is almost as scary as living under the law itself.