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Remembering Ugandan Equality Advocate David Kato

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Today is the one-year anniversary of the murder of David Kato, a trailblazing Ugandan LGBT advocate.

Several years ago, American Evangelical groups hosted a series of seminars in Uganda aimed at convincing Ugandans that LGBT people are a threat. Anti-LGBT sentiment in Uganda (where it was already illegal to be gay) increased even more, resulting in a proposal to institute the death penalty for gay people which is still pending before Uganda’s Parliament. Kato spent his life urging his fellow Ugandans to reject these anti-gay attitudes. Not long before his murder, Kato and several colleagues at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) won a case against the Ugandan paper Rolling Stone (no relation to the American magazine) for publishing the names and photographs of 100 LGBT people in Uganda with a headline urging “hang them.”

Outrage over the loss of his life was deeply felt by the Ugandan LGBT community and its supporters around the world, and its impact continues to be felt to this day.  David Kato’s life and legacy are about fairness and acceptance, and about having the strength to deliver those messages in the face of powerful opposition.

Though the death penaltybill is sponsored by Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati, the seeds for it were sewn by American anti-gay activists who went to Uganda to spread egregious misinformation and fear about LGBT people. American anti-gay conservative activists, often citing religious beliefs, have partnered with the ruling elite in Uganda in the interest of ‘owning’ the country’s social agenda, which is the gateway to exploiting the country’s wealth.  But this weekend, many people of faith in America will counter those anti-gay sentiments and carry on Kato’s message of hope and equality.

Many welcoming communities of faith across the United States will be remembering the life and death of David Kato this Sunday, which is also Welcoming Church Sunday.

Welcoming Church Sunday is the perfect opportunity to remember David Kato’s legacy and reflect upon the struggles of our neighbors around the world. His advocacy on behalf of LGBT people in Uganda continues through SMUG and its related organizations: Freedom & Roam, Icebreakers Uganda, Spectrum, and Integrity Uganda, a branch of the Episcopalian LGBT group based in the United States.

The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) is encouraging all places of worship to offer a prayer in memory of David Kato. Pastor Pat Bumgardner, Executive Director of the Global Justice Institute, asks, “As we celebrate David’s life and commemorate his legacy, the question for our community is – what will we do before January 26th, 2013 to further the cause of freedom and dignity for LGBT people around the world?

The Global Justice Institute offers the following prayer for congregations to incorporate into worship this weekend:

Leader: O God, we light this candle {today/this evening} in memory of our brother, David Kato. You know, O God, he was faithful to your vision of a world at peace with its own diversity. You know, too, the price he paid for that faithfulness. Help us, who are now charged with carrying on that vision, to have the courage of conviction and stamina and grace it takes to live each and every day in a way that brings a little more justice, a little more kindness, a little more acceptance to this earth and its peoples. Help us now, as we pray, to rededicate ourselves to that singular call. For the sake of LGBT children and adults everywhere,

Congregation: WE PROMISE TO STRIVE TO ACT JUSTLY WITH EVERY WORD WE SPEAK, EVERY THOUGHT WE THINK, AND EVERY DEED WE DO.

Leader: For the sake of our oppressors and those who harm us,

Congregation: WE PROMISE TO STRIVE TO LOVE TENDERLY AND SET A CHRIST-LIKE EXAMPLE FOR ALL TO FOLLOW.

Leader: For all our sakes, and for the coming of peace to this earth

Congregation: WE PROMISE TO SEEK TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOU, O

GOD, ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES.

Leader: May God bless us to be faithful to the longings of our hearts this day. In Jesus' name. Amen

GLAAD encourages all people to observe a moment of remembrance in honor of David Kato, and encourages all congregations this weekend to recommit to being a welcoming space LGBT people of faith.

 

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