Monday, February 15, 2010

Pride+Love in Uganda 03:LGBT Valentine's Day Conference Report

“This was different from other conferences… gay banners and flags… no pretense, it was very straight forward.”
-A conference attendee
"Our conference showed that religion does not need to be an enemy to the cause of LGBT concerns. LGBT people have a strong sense of religion and God and values. What is at stake here in Uganda is religious freedom, human rights and minority protections. We pray that the international community will continue to stand with us.”
-Rev. Mark Kiyimba
More than 200 LGBT Ugandans (including many young adults) gathered in Kampala to strategize and organize a response to the anti-homosexuality bill that is about to voted on by the Ugandan parliament

Risking arrest and certain imprisonment these courageous activists convened by Ugandan Unitarian Universalist minister Mark Kiyimba, Spectrum Uganda and other grassroots LGBT community organizations engaged in hours of discussions what one organizer described as a “Pride Parade in a closet.” Although the subject matter was deadly serious.

The conference attendees called for complete decriminalization of homosexuality, full access to services, human rights and protection by the state. Sessions included talks by religious and human rights activists. The keynote speaker was Anglican Bishop and Integrity Uganda president Christopher Ssenyojo, a champion ally of LGBT rights spoke on the theme of Love and justice. Bishop Christopher, was formerly exiled from Uganda and continues to offer Christian sanctuary to the LGBT community at great risk.

Immediately following the conference, the Ugandan Daily Monitior newspaper reported that police are currently seeking to find and arrest the organizers of the conference.

At the meeting there was a strong sense from the grassroots of feeling supported and given a voice in the midst of persecution. The conference culminated in a petition for equality which is to be presented to the speaker of the house or a local member of parliament. The conference has promised to bring legal action against the state if the bill is passed. Organizers stated that a procession had been planned to deliver the petition on foot, but as one organizer put it: “If we walk through the streets we will surely be stoned.”

According to Pastor Kiyimba, whose church members include many LGBT persons, “I cannot stand by and watch as my community is exterminated. My church will become illegal and cease to exist if this bill becomes law”

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