Uganda: David Kato

On Wednesday 26th January, 2011, gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in his house in Kampala, Uganda. He had been hacked on the head with a hammer.
Kato’s murder comes only weeks after the Uganda Supreme Court told the local magazine Rolling Stone (not to be confused with the music magazine) to stop publishing names of prominent Ugandan alleged homosexuals and calling for them to be hanged. It now seems someone apparently took up the magazine’s call and David Kato, who was out already as gay man and LGBTI activist, has become the first lethal victim of the magazine’s hate call.
Kato said in an interview last year: "I can’t run away and leave the people I am protecting. People might die, but me, I will be the last one to run out of here."
He did not run, and he died.
David Kato was arrested three times for his activism and faced innumerable other forms of harassment and assault. A long-time activist, Kato had earned the title of ‘grandfather of the kuchus’ – as gay men in Kampala call themselves – for his work on behalf of people in the LGBT community. In the past he has sheltered many people in his home, visited them in prison and worked for their release. He worked as the advocacy and litigation officer for SMUG, Sexual Minorities Uganda, Uganda’s main LGBTI Rights group. David Kato’s murder ironically comes on the same day that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon made the strongest call ever by the UN for an end to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

At David Kato's funeral on Friday, January 28, there was a sad turn of events. Since Kato was an Anglican, the local parish church of Nagojje was responsible for his funeral rites to be read from the Book of Common Prayer. Although tributes have been pouring into the Kato family from President Barack Obama and other international leaders, the Church of Uganda sent no priest, no bishop, but a Lay Reader to conduct the service.
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo arrived in his purple cassock accompanied by his wife Mary and let the master of ceremonies know he would like to say a few words at some point in the service. He was going to read a message from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) where David worked tirelessly since 2004. As an excommunicated bishop of the Church of Uganda, Senyonjo has no standing in the official hierarchy of the church.
The Lay Reader, Thomas Musoke, began to make inappropriate remarks condemning homosexuality quite graphically and stating the Church of Uganda’s position that homosexuality was a sin and against the Bible. The crowd began to cheer him on and the event was turning into an anti-gay rally. The bishop was never called upon to speak. He felt for the LGBT community having to suffer yet another public humiliation. The (Anglican) Church of Uganda took a pastoral opportunity for healing and reconciliation with family members and LGBT people and allies and turned the event into an anti-gay political rally. Musoke was, however, finally thrown out from the funeral.
Following this horrific incident, Bishop Senyonjo, as a bishop of the church and wearing his purple cassock, walked behind the coffin carried by Kato’s friends and family to the graveside. There, although he was disinvited by the Church to speak at the funeral, he found a way to bring words of comfort to the mourners and said the final blessing over David’s battered remains.

In this one sad occasion, we can see there are two churches in Uganda and indeed elsewhere - one following the love of the law, and the other following the law of love.

R.I.P. DAVID KATO (symbolic event)
COMMENTARY: David Kato's funeral illustrates schism of Anglican Church (San Diego Gay and Lesbian News 28.1.11)
Which side are you on? or - They fucked up the Anglican Communion for this? (OCICBW 28.1.11)
MadPriest's thought for the day (OCICBW 29.1.11)
Präst utkastad från Katos begravning (Dagen 29.1.11)


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

The funny thing is, that Musoke (the surname of the Lay Reader) is Luanda for Rainbow...

Johan Brandt t. Grevnäs said...

Horrifying - one asks (I do!) how these haters can call themselves christians - to act like this in the midst of a funeral, an occasion for consolation...? The excommunicated bishop was truly a man on the right place at the right time!