Friday, January 28, 2011

Gay Rights Activist Murdered in Uganda

Funeral for Ugandan gay activist

David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights activist was murdered in his home on Thursday, January 27, 2011. The BBC's Joshua Mmali in Kampala says hundreds of people gathered in his home village near the capital, Kampala, for the burial. At one point a protestor outside disrupted the somber funeral proceedings spewing anti-gay rhetoric demanding homosexuals "repent". He was seized by the police and removed from the premises.

Last year, Mr Kato sued a local paper which outed him as homosexual.

Uganda's Rolling Stone newspaper published the photographs of several people it said were gay, including Mr Kato, with the headline "Hang them".

Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda, and can be punished by 14-year prison sentences. An MP recently tried to increase the penalties to include the death sentence in some cases.

The Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) group said Mr Kato had been receiving death threats since his name, photograph and address were published by Rolling Stone last year.

Our reporter says it is unclear whether the death is linked to the Rolling Stone campaign, but police have said there is no connection between Mr Kato's activism and his death.

He says hundreds of people - friends, family, colleagues and diplomats - crowded outside Mr Kato's family home in the village of Nakawala in Mukono district, 40km (about 25 miles) from Kampala.

Many members of the lesbian and gay community wore T-shirts with Mr Kato's portrait on the front and the words "La luta continua [the struggle continues]" printed on the back.

The man warned that they would face the fate of residents in Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical cities destroyed by God.

Police have made one arrest in connection to Mr Kato's murder in his home near Mukono town.

The main suspect - who the police say was living in Mr Kato's house - remains on the run.

"His homosexuality has not come up as an issue in the preliminary investigation," police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba told Reuters news agency.

"At the moment, we think theft is the most likely motive," she said.

There has been a recent spate of "iron-bar killings" in Mukono in which people have been assaulted with pieces of metal.

Witnesses have told the BBC that a man entered Mr Kato's house and beat him to death before leaving.

Smug's executive director Frank Mugisha told the BBC Mr Kato had recently been concerned about the threats he had received.

"He was killed by someone who came in his house with a hammer, meaning anyone else could be the next target."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged authorities to investigate and prosecute the killers.

The UN refugee agency head Antonio Guterres has said people facing persecution for their sexual orientation in Uganda should be given refugee status in other countries.

Much of the current impetus for the antigay campaign began with the arrival of evangelical church groups- some from the US – which began to get increasingly involved about two years back, says Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

“Things started going to a whole new level when the churches got involved,” Ms. Kagari says.

But while it is the current antigay campaign in Uganda that has garnered international attention, homophobia remains rife across Africa. Homosexuality is illegal in 37 countries on the continent.

And from attacks in Senegal, Nigeria, Gambia, and Cameroon to the imprisonment of a same-sex couple in Malawi and the "correctional rape" of lesbians in South Africa, more cases of abuse are being reported, Kagari says.

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Response
Below are excerpts from Rev. Peter Morales, President of the UUA:

. . . Right now in Uganda, we have seen an alarming rise in violence and prejudice toward people who are even assumed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Right now, Ugandan citizens, including members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Uganda, fear they will be killed because of this growing culture of oppression against LGBT people.

In response, I am honored to announce that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), in partnership with the UU United Nations Office (UU-UNO), has launched the UUA/UU-UNO LGBT Uganda Fund, to help LGBT human rights activists—including members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Uganda—protect people whose safety is threatened and fight for social justice and LGBT rights.

I know how bravely UUs like the Rev. Mark Kiyimba, founder of the UU Church of Uganda, are working to support and protect threatened LGBT people by providing a welcoming faith community. In their struggle to prevent further violence, the Rev. Kiyimba and other UUs in Uganda have put their own safety at risk...Home is the one place we believe we can be safe, where we can be ourselves. For LGBT people in Uganda, this belief has been shattered. I can only imagine the terror and despair they must feel. My heart breaks for them.

Still, I have hope. As president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I believe the people of our faith will answer the call to action. I have seen, again and again, the strength and resolve UUs summon in response to violence and oppression, no matter how daunting the task.

We must stand on the side of love with our UU brothers and sisters in Uganda. Through solidarity and hard work, we can —and will—end this violence.

We cannot, in good conscience, allow them to struggle alone. Even recent anti-bigotry legislation in Uganda will not stop the hatred and violence aimed at the LGBT community. Worse, much of the hateful rhetoric has been wrapped in religious language, brought to the Ugandan public by Americans representing the so-called Christian right.

The situation remains too dangerous for us to stand idly by.

Imagine the horror of seeing your photo and home address listed in a national magazine, with an accompanying article calling for your death. It seems unthinkable, almost impossible, but that is exactly what has happened in Uganda.. .

Sincerely,Rev. Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist Association

(edited by Qiyamah A Rahman from QBBC NEWS and the UUA website and other sources)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Professional Ministerial Boundaries

These are my students that signed up for my Professional Ministerial Boundaries class. They look so happy because it is the last day of class and we were preparing to adjourn. (l to r fron row: Sara, Kali, Lisa and Michael; back row: Dennis, Bruce, Beth and Jim)

January Intensives Include New CourseI taught a January Intensive for the first time since I came on faculty at Meadville Lombard Theological School (July 1, 2008). The class, Professional Ministerial Boundaries was a first for Meadville and my teaching it. It has been taught before but always as part of classes like Arts of Ministry.

I have taught about clergy sexual abuse previously but I have not combined other threats to the safety of the congregation. In this course I included: domestic violence, elder abuse, stalking, sexual harassment, sexual assault, child abuse and youth violence. We also examined GLBTQ abuse. It was challenging, exciting and lots of work. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Especially now that I have done all the research for the course and have worked out the pace and flow.

The students were great and the success of the class was partly due to their participation and to my syllabus I developed! I restricted the number of students this time but I could easily accomodate a much larger number in the future. In the future I will look at including the integration of spirituality and sexuality. A new competency from the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) now requires awareness and education on human sexuality and gender justice.

With a focus on clergy sexual abuse I devoted a full day to the topic out of the four days.

Q. When was the last time you engaged in a learning experience that elicited excitement and inquiry?
Q. How can you integrate such intentional learning into your lifestyle if you are not pursuing a degree?

Thoughts on Ministry and BoundariesMinisters, denominational leaders laity and the faith community in general have become

Ministry and BoundariesMinisters, denominational leaders, laity and the faith community in general have become more and more aware of the need to address issues of sex, power and boundaries in order to effectively serve the community. Issues of collegiality, conduct and healthy boundaries are particularly important when serving vulnerable populations that include children, elderly and individuals in crisis. Furthermore, members open their lives up to clergy in the most intimate of ways and so we have a particular responsibility to honor that trust. Recognizing power dynamics and understanding that essentially we are sexual beings can become confusing and volatile if we are vigilant and constantly affirming our covenant to serve responsibility.
A healthy collegiality is fostered when all individuals respect the inherent worth and dignity of all involved. Specific guidelines about language, conduct and what constitutes appropriate boundaries are important in the formation of healthy relationships. While it may be challenging to make sharp and clear distinctions between private conduct and public accountability, ministers should always model professional and ethical conduct. Private conduct which proves to be embarrassing or even harmful to others cannot be minimized or ignored because of its deleterious effects. Claims to a private life in which freedom is asserted need to be balanced by an awareness of the public role of ministry that require congruent and consistent professional conduct at all times.
Ministers simply must conduct themselves with care and integrity in the performance of their duties lest those whom they serve become confused and possible victims of abuse due to our carelessness and failure to hold sacred our duty to do no harm.
Many of the issues explored in the course, Professional Ministerial Boundaries relate to the more and ethical issues as well as the legal and liability issues. To some extent an inability or unwillingness to act with appropriate discipline and vigilance, love and compassion have led to more and more intervention on the part of the legal system. While the social controls are integral primarily this is a question of covenant between the clergy person and that which he or she recognizes as the source of their call. Violating that call then renders a clergy person prone to violating personal relationships.
Maintaining good self care that includes ones spiritual practices, healthy support networks, spiritual insights and awareness , effective denominational policies and procedures and continuing education for clergy will go a long way towards providing the necessary building blocks for good ministry and minimize the risks of unintended harm.

Q. As a clergy person, who has the power - you or the laity in your congregation?

If you hesitated let me assure you that you have more power than you realize. In order not to unintentionally abuse your power you want to get intimately familiar with all the ways that you have power and then learn to share it appropriately so that your laity feel and act empowered. If you already are a collaborative leader then I encourage you to continue to practice collaborative leadership.
Blessings Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman – January, 2011