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 Wedding – in Uganda.

From Gay Uganda, a post which celebrates “Pure, absolute madness. Reckless, foolish, wonderful courage.”

A Gay Wedding. In Uganda!

Reckless Courage!

If you are not aware, in the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda is a bill, designed to ‘wipe out homosexuality’ from the country.
The bill has huge, terrible punishments for the homosexual Ugandan. They are life imprisonment, and the death penalty, for any acts that are deemed to be ‘homosexual’, ranging from simple touch, to lovely, consensual sex.

The mood amongst the gay community at the moment?
Well, we have been demonized, for years. But this year has been special. More than usual. Our lives hang in balance, yet we cannot defend ourselves. We have been branded traitors to the country, un-African, un-Ugandan, we are under attack as ‘recruiters’ working under the aegis of ‘foreign homosexuals’. The bill in parliament is a vicious attack on the human rights in the country, yet those who would have dared to speak up are also cowed. They fear being labeled homosexuals. Or, supporters. Recruiters.

Yet, this is an account of a Gay Wedding in Uganda. It happened yesterday.

We are a multi-ethnic country. Our marriage ceremonies differ from tribe to tribe. We are proud of them. They define us, define the start of a new generation, the final flight of the nestlings from the home. They are usually a big community event.

For most of us, the basic traditional wedding ceremony is when the girl introduces the boy to her parents. The Introduction Ceremony. With the coming of formal religion, this is taken as the first, before a Church or mosque wedding, or whatever.
The ‘Introduction’ Ceremony is a must. Many don’t go beyond that, for various reasons. But, once the Introduction is done, the man and woman are one, family, in the eyes of the community. It is our most important ceremony.

This is December marriage season, when students are back from school, holidays are in for office workers, and such. It is the season of weddings and introduction ceremonies. The season of parties.

Two guys, two kuchus wanted to celebrate their love. And, they did it yesterday.

Read it all at  ” A Gay Wedding in Uganda

Vatican Statement on Uganda

By way of a post at Box Turtle Bulletin, which (unlike many other general LGBT sites)  regularly has sound comment on religion, I learn that the Vatican has finally released a statement on Uganda:

Statement of the Holy See

Mr. Moderator,

Thank you for convening this panel discussion and for providing the opportunity to hear some very serious concerns raised this afternoon. My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than a question.

As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.

As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

For some excellent commentary on the statement, go to Box Turtle Bulletin

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.



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