Written by UUA International Resources Director Rev. Eric Cherry on November 4, 2010.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) – Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) experiential learning trip to Uganda is off to a terrific start. Fifteen Unitarian Universalists from across the United States arrived in Kampala on Thursday, November 4, 2010, for our first day together. And, if today is any measure of what we have in store, this is going to be a powerful trip infused with a deep faith dimension, with tragic and inspiring stories of human rights and justice work, and with the development of a sense of community between us and the people that we meet along the way.
Each evening, we will share reflection time together. Tonight there was a great deal of sharing, especially about the welcome that we received from four members of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kampala: Marie, Tomas, Frank, and Peter. Each of them has been deeply involved in the fight against bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender (BGLT) discrimination in Uganda, each of them has provided incredible support to the BGLT community, and each of them has sacrificed and suffered – sometimes horrendously – because of who they are.
We heard frightening stories of ostracization, of being “cut off” by family, churches, co-workers, and society as a whole. We heard of the brutal attacks that they have suffered, and of the constant fear of being attacked at home, at work, and in all places. Even still, these brothers and sisters in faith and justice-work risked a great deal merely to meet with us – an incredible privilege for us – and helped us to understand a little bit better the reality that they face daily.
They thanked American Unitarian Universalists for being what they described as the sole religious voice supporting them from abroad. And they recognized political pressure from the United States as the only reason that the infamous “Anti Homosexuality Bill” has not yet been passed in Uganda. This is frightfully ironic, as they also credit conservative religious movements in the United States as the source of the current violence and systemic homophobia in Uganda.
And yet, when I asked these beautiful souls how they would feel if I took a photograph of them for publication on the internet, they enthusiastically gave permission.
“Our photos are already out there,” they said, “all of Kampala already knows we are gay.” The dangers inherent in that are clearer to me today than they ever have been before. And I hope that all who hear their story, and see their photographs, will recognize that we are implicated in their fate. We are tied together in interdependence. May we claim our privilege, our power, and our responsibility.
God bless Marie, Tomas, Peter, and Frank. God bless the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kampala that welcomes all people. And God bless the ties that bind each to all.