We Stand with LGBTQI Ugandans (GC2016 Newsletter May 18)

By Ann Craig

“Hang Them!” was the headline in a local Ugandan paper that, combined with the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, forced Ugandan LGBTQI people into hiding if they could not get out of the country. The law threatened family, friends, and neighbors with imprisonment if they didn’t turn people in for being gay. Neighbors and landlords forced LGBTQI Ugandans to flee their homes. They lost jobs, communities, and families.

Affirmation LogoIn August of 2015, Affirmation began a partnership with Ugandan LGBTQI people to help a growing network of men and women establish two small businesses to help them survive. With a small grant, made possible by the bequest of Tim Tenant-Jayne, a long-time activist with Affirmation, we enabled them to launch a hair salon and a brickmaking business.

We first connected with Ugandan LGBTQI faith before the 2012 General Conference as the Love Your Neighbor Coalition reached out to United Methodists in East and West Africa. In the process, we met Denis Iraguha, chaplain for LGBTQI people who worked with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. His ministry is to visit community members in their homes when they are dealing with HIV/AIDS or family rejection.

When the Anti-Homosexuality bill calling for the death sentence for gays passed, Denis and four other men were forced out of their homes and fled to the border of Rwanda. In a few months, the bill was declared unconstitutional, and things quieted down somewhat. Denis and his team made their way back to Kampala, the capital of Uganda, with nothing to their names.

Today, they have a chance. Through the support of Affirmation, they may be able to gain a foothold and restore their sense of dignity. There are no guarantees. Although they are being careful, persecution still happens. We will be praying for the success of the hair salon and brick making businesses.

Affirmation is on the cutting edge. We support forty LGBTQI Ugandans who are praying for better times. Affirmation has been a force for justice ever since the “incompatibility” language was first passed, and gave birth to the Reconciling Ministries Network. We were the first to add the “T” and the first to have transgender leadership. Today, we are among the first to be engaged in Africa with LGBTQI people who are trying to survive persecution—often in the name of Jesus.

Pray with us and work with us. John Wesley said, “The World Is My Parish.” United Methodists must speak out against violence against LGBTQI people everywhere.

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