David Kato: A New Ugandan Martyr

In June each year, the Church remembers a group of Ugandan martyrs, in the feast of Charles Lwangwa and companions. This week, we as queer Christians have new Ugandan martyr to remember, in David Kanto, an openly gay church worker who was brutally murdered in a clearly homophobic attack. While we mourn his death, we should at the same time pause to reflect on both sets of deaths, and on the role of the Christian churches in fomenting African homophobia, in colonial times and in the modern world.

Charles Lwangwa and companions were a group of young pages to the king of Buganda who converted to Christianity. Encouraged by the local missionaries, they resisted the sexual advances of their royal master. For this act of treason (in the eyes of the king and the Buganda court), they were executed. For this courageous martyrdom (as the missionaries saw it), they were later canonized as saints.

This week, David Kanto was murdered.

 

David Kato, Martyr

David was brutally beaten to death in his home today, 26 January 2011, around 2pm.  Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member, and human rights defender.

extract from public statement by Sexual Minorities Uganda

David has been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of Rolling Stone Magazine, which called for his death and the death of all homosexuals.  David’s death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity.

 

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Gay Ugandans, Uganda Martyrs

There have been many reports recently about the strong anti-gay sentiment and legislative measures emerging in Uganda, such as this report today from  Box Turtle Bulletin: Ugandan Parliament Takes Up Anti-Gay Bill, or Homosexuals Face Death Penalty in New Vision (Uganda), forwarded by email from Other Sheep.  What I have not seen in any reports, is any reference to the story of the Ugandan Martyrs, which makes an ironic contrast to the current persecution.

Some years ago, I did a great deal of reading on African history, including one book on the colonial exploration and development of East Africa. From this book (The title of which I no longer recall) I remember very clearly, although you will not find the full story in the mainly sanitised abbreviated stories at the top of a Google search.  The Ugandan martyrs are commemorated in the Church calendar on June 3rd each year, as the feast of Charles Lwangwa and companions.

This is the story as I read and remember it.

Uganda_Martyrs

 

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