Attitudes toward homosexuality in Uganda have rarely been one of acceptance. In fact, homosexual acts are currently punishable by a prison sentence. But after visits from American evangelical ministers who preached against homosexuality, Uganda has become a deadly place for out gay and lesbian people.
Last week, gay activist David Kato (pictured) was brutally attacked and bludgeoned to death after a local tabloid published pictures of alleged gay men, including Kato (who was open about his sexuality), under the headline “HANG THEM.”
Scott Lively, one of the American evangelicals who visited Uganda, has suggested that the Ugandan government should give homosexuals who are arrested the choice of “reparative therapy” or prison. Lively is also the author of a book which suggests that the Nazi army was populated by gay men. Lively claims he is being unfairly demonized following Kato’s death.
At Kato’s funeral, a local pastor grabbed the microphone and began preaching to those gathered.
“The world has gone crazy,” the pastor told the congregation through a microphone. “People are turning away from the scriptures. They should turn back, they should abandon what they are doing. You cannot start admiring a fellow man.”
Then the villagers refused to bury Kato’s coffin.
Lively and others, including American mega-church pastor Rick Warren, have expressed dismay that Ugandans are behaving so violently against gay and lesbian people. They don’t seem to understand that when you tell recent converts in a largely uneducated population prone to religious fanaticism that homosexuals displease God, bad things are going to happen to innocent people.
I don’t believe that most Christians in the United States think that gay people should be put to death. But the rhetoric coming from the pulpits is at best ignorant and at worst negligent. If people of faith don’t want to be seen as backwards and homophobic, they need to begin to speak louder than voices of hate.
As much as words can spill blood, they can also heal wounds. Words can be the bridges that connect people, rather than the canyons that divide them. Don’t allow those who preach hate to co-opt the faiths of those who wish only to spread peace. When you hear someone speaking words of hate, remind them that their words have consequences.