African Homophobia Moves Forward As Ugandan Archbishop Threatens Schism
August 20th, 2010
More talk of schism is coming out of Africa, this time from Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, head of the Anglican Church in Uganda. Speaking at the opening of a three-day provincial Assembly in Mukono, Orombi declared that the Anglican Communion is “broken”:
What I can tell you is that the Anglican Church is very broken,” Bishop Orombi said. “It (church) has been torn at its deepest level, and it is a very dysfunctional family of the provincial churches. It is very sad for me to see how far down the church has gone.”
He proposed that the Church of Uganda engages church structures at a very minimal level until godly faith and order have been restored. “I can assure you that we have tried as a church to participate in the processes, but they are dominated by western elites, whose main interest is advancing a vision of Anglicanism that we do not know or recognise. We are a voice crying in the wilderness,” he said at the Church’s top assembly that convenes every two years.
By “engaging church structures at a very minimal level,” Orombi is referring to the Ugandan church’s participation in the worldwide Anglican Communion. African Bishops have been increasingly restive over overtures that the Anglican Communion in the west has made toward LGBT inclusion, particularly with the ordination of gay bishops in the United States.
Principal Judge of the High Court of Uganda, Justice James Ogoola, was also at the Anglican meeting in Uganda. According to Uganda’s Daily Monitor, Ogoola spoke of the court’s “need to deeply reflect on the fear of God.”
Tensions continue to rise throughout much of Africa as countries become increasingly homophobic. Burundi, a little to the south of Uganda, is the only nation in the world buck the last two decades’ decriminalization trend by adding homosexuality to its criminal statutes in 2008. Malawi has just gone through its own spasm of anti-gay prosecutions with arrest, conviction, and subsequent pardon of a couple who held a traditional engagement ceremony in late 2009.
And back in Uganda, the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced into Parliament in October, 2009, which would add the death penalty under certain circumstances and change the legal definitions of homosexuality to make prosecution much easier. It would also lead to criminal penalties for anyone renting to or providing services for LGBT people, and would impose a three year prison sentence for failure to report LGBT people to police.
Due largely to international outcry, that bill remains bottled up in two Parliamentary committees, where it appears likely the bill may quietly die when this Parliament ends with the 2011 elections. The bill still does not appear on Parliament’s final agenda. Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi has sent Parliament into recess until September 13 in order to accommodate party primaries in advance of the elections. When Parliament returns, the main business is expected to be passing the budget. After that is done, there will be tremendous pressure to adjourn Parliament so MP’s can campaign for re-election.
But that doesn’t mean the danger has passed for Uganda’s LGBT community. While Uganda’s law currently calls for a lifetime prison sentence depending on how prosecutors chose to press charges, much of the day-to-day struggles LGBT people face stem more from societal attitudes which are amplified from time to time by media, politicians, and other opinion makers. Uganda media are prone to waging public vigilante campaigns in which ordinary LGBT citizens are named and places of residence and employment are identified. The most recent major campaign occured in April, 2009, shortly after an anti-gay conference put on by three American anti-gay activists the month before. Another smaller-scale campaign broke out in December at the height of the controversy over the draconian legislation.
While the anti-gay legislation appears to be on hold, Uganda’s leaders continue to issue anti-gay statements. It is widely believed in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa that homosexuality is a Western import, and that it is spread by Americans and Europeans who supposedly bribe young Ugandans to become gay. First lady Janet Museveni, speaking on a wide range of moral issues at a youth convention two weeks ago, condemned pro-gay advocacy which she described as an abomination in the African culture:
“In God’s word, homosexuality attracts a curse, but now people are engaging in it and saying they are created that way. It is for money… The devil is stoking fires to destroy our nation and those taking advantage are doing so because our people are poor,” she said.
Mrs. Museveni advised the youth not only to listen to messages on how they can make money but also focus on spiritual growth. “You know that you will lose everything else when you lose your soul.