A bishop from Uganda, presently in Edinburgh, is set to challenge the 'sexual apartheid' of discrimination and oppression against LGBT people at a meeting today.
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is speaking on Saturday 13 August at a meeting entitled 'The worst place in the world to be gay?', a conversation with Amnesty International's John Watson, which is one of 200 events forming the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Scotland's capital.
The outspoken Ugandan churchman, who has faced ostracism and intimidation for his counselling and advocacy work with LGBT people in Africa, spoke last night after a showing of the powerful film 'Getting Out', at the Filmhouse Cinema, is also preaching at Glasgow's Episcopal Cathedral on Sunday morning, and for evensong at St John's, Princes Street, Edinburgh in the evening.
He is also due to appear on the BBC Radio 4 'Sunday' programme next week. The show runs from 7.10am.
Hardline politicians, church leaders and community figures in Uganda, Ghana and elsewhere in Africa have whipped up dangerous surges of hatred against gay people in recent years. Uganda considered a bill that would make homosexuality a capital crime.
In the midst of this storm, Bishop Senyonjo, an Anglican, has gone against the prevailing winds, campaigning against what he calls ‘sexual apartheid’.
While many vociferous African church leaders have taken a strong stance against same-sex relationships, a significant and growing minority, including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, have argued a strong Christian case for compassion, dignity, inclusion and acceptance within the churches and within wider cultures where homophobia has seemed a norm.
Bishop Senyonjo, whom the Huffington Post named ‘one of the ten most influential religious figures in the world’ in 2010, "demonstrates what it means to have conviction and faith enough to side with all those whom Jesus called 'the least of these my sisters and brothers'," says Festival of Spirituality and Peace director, the Rev Donald Reid.
Bishop Senyonjo spent his entire ministerial career prior to his 1998 retirement in Uganda. From 1974 until 1998, he was the Anglican Diocesan Bishop of West Buganda at Masaka. He completed a DMin at Hartford Theological Seminary, USA, which was key to his understanding of marriage and human sexuality, two areas which would define his later career.
Following his retirement from the bishopric, Senyonjo began counselling services for singles and married people. His pastoral work with LGBT people began in 2001.
In 2010, he founded St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equality Centre for LGBTQ/Straight Alliance. Bishop Senyonjo has been a keynote speaker at a number of international human rights conferences, including two at the United Nations in 2010.
These two conferences helped to reinstate language protecting LGBT people against “extra-judicial” killings.
Bishop Senyonjo is in Edinburgh from 9-16 August 2011. He arrives in San Diego, USA, on 18 August and will be visiting California, Portland, Minnesota, Chicago, Boston, Washington, New Jersey and New York.
He will receive the Unitas Award from Union Theological Seminary before leaving the USA on 24 October.
* More on Bishop Senyonjo and the Festival here: http://festivalofspirituality.blogspot.com/