Williams calls for an end to anti-gay bigotry after killing

By Agencies
28 Jan 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the global Anglican Communion, Dr Rowan Williams, has called for an end to bigotry against homosexual people and said it is time "to take very serious stock" of attitudes that endanger the lives of sexual minorities.

His comments follow the death of gay activist and committed Christian David Kato, after his name appeared on a list of 'known homos" published by an anti-gay Urgandan tabloid paper.

Referring to police reports that Kato was killed as the result of a robbery, Williams commented that "whatever the precise circumstances of his death ... we know that [he] lived under the threat of violence and death ... No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others. Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion."

Dr Williams is in Dublin chairing a meeting of Anglican primates, or national and regional bishops, which is experiencing the absence of several members due to disagreements over church attitudes toward LGBT people.

Some of the primates who are staying away claim Scripture prohibits homosexuality - a point disputed by others - and disagree with the more open stance of churches such as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori (who is attending the meeting), said Kato's murder deprived Uganda of a "significant and effective voice, and we pray that the world may learn from his gentle and quiet witness, and begin to receive a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone."

Uganda's archbishop, Henry Luke Orombi, is among those boycotting the gathering.

US President Barack Obama called on the Ugandan government to hold the perpetrators accountable. "I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder," Obama said in a statement on 28 January 2011.

"David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom," said the president.

At the same time, some Ugandan church leaders continued to criticize homosexuality. An Anglican priest, Thomas Musoke, in his sermon at Kato's funeral in Kampala, said homosexuality is "evil and will be punished by God."

His remarks prompted a scuffle as supporters of Kato tried to wrest the microphone away and police intervened, according to news reports.

Mr Kato was listed among a group of 100 people described as homosexual by the local tabloid Rolling Stone, which is no relation to the American magazine of the same name.

The tabloid’s editor Giles Muhame told the Daily Monitor newspaper in Uganda on 27 January that Kato "brought death upon himself. He hasn’t lived carefully."

However, the European Union, in a statement, said that Kato "was fearless in his defence of fundamental rights and freedoms and will be a great loss to the global community of human rights defenders and to Uganda."

In Kenya, an organisation called Gay Kenya Trust condemned the killing and called upon religious leaders, particularly conservative American evangelicals, to disassociate themselves from any form of violence against gays. In March, 2009, three US evangelicals visited Kampala to speak about such discredited ideas as 'curing' homosexuals.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called on the Ugandan government to ensure an in-depth and impartial investigation into Kato's death and to protect other gay activists.

Meanwhile, in Britain, human rights activists were waiting to see if Brenda Namigadde would be offered asylum in view of Kato's murder.

Namigadde told The Guardian newspaper that she fears for her life if she is returned to the country she left eight years ago. "My life is in danger. I'm very scared. I haven't eaten. I haven't slept. I'll be tortured or killed. They've put people like me to death there."

A bill has been introduced in the Ugandan parliament that would make homosexual acts punishable by death, but it has not yet been enacted.

Two years ago, Namigadde was in Uganda, protesting the bill. She said she was photographed and that her name and picture, along with that of others, was published in Uganda.

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With acknowledgments to ENI (ww.eni.ch) writers Trevor Grundy and Fredrick Nzwilli.

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