The United Nations Faith Coalition for Human Rights mourns the loss of our friend and colleague, David Kato, who was murdered in his home at mid-day on January 26, 2011, in Uganda. David was a leading advocate for the rights of sexual minorities in his country and around the world. He was outspoken, courageous and incisive. His persona, spirit, intelligence and wit animated our lives and our Coalition’s collective pursuit of equality and justice for all people.
David’s death comes days after winning a law suit against Rolling Stone newspaper in Uganda for the publication of his name, photograph and address in a list of “Top 100 Homosexuals” with a hangman’s noose next to the pictures.
Over the last year David and others fought the “kill the gays” bill which is still pending in the Ugandan Parliament. Conservative Christians worked hand-in-glove in the planning of this bill and Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, who describes himself as a devout Christian, said in a quote in the New York Times, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”
Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) said, “The international community must not ignore David’s Kato’s death which is one more sign of rising persecution and genocide. LGBT people are fleeing from their homes in fear for their lives. People of good will must speak out.”
David’s life must not be in vain. As faith leaders and citizens, we must respond to David’s murder. Change will only happen when people of good conscience everywhere stand up and say, “I know someone who is gay, I know someone who is transgender. Let them live their lives in peace with full rights of citizens and the same protection of laws as I have.”
Pastor Joseph Tolton, of The Fellowship, said, “As part of the African Diaspora, we are saying out loud, that when any of us are targeted, we are all at risk.” We know that people from the United States with tax exemptions use their anti-gay brand of religion to raise money and feed the frenzy of anti-gay rhetoric that led to David’s death. Those same preachers will deny any connection to the horrific murder of David, but they cannot erase their broadcasts and stadium events that demonize gay people. This must stop.
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, from Uganda, said, “As a straight ally to LGBT people, I see the growing persecution of people because of who they are and who they love, in part, because Evangelicals from the USA come to Uganda and preach against LGBT people. This divides families, communities and countries.”
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, said, “We call upon our colleagues in ministry who have contributed to the rise of violence against gay and transgender people in Uganda and around the world to repent of their preaching and public pronouncements that being gay is a sin or an illness that can be ‘cured.’ These untruths distort family and community relationships, encourage violence and, when unchecked, result in murder.” Dr. Love is the Executive Director of Soulforce and member of the Human Rights Campaign Religion Council.
We call on the leaders of all nations to use the power of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, international treaties and economic aid to defend sexual minorities throughout the world. Uganda and other nations receive millions of aid dollars from the US, and persecute gay citizens for no other reason than their expression of love for someone of the same gender. 120 nations imprison or execute gay people and one third of them recently received economic aid from the US.
We call on President Obama to use his presence at the National Prayer Breakfast to mourn our brother and to express his Administration’s position on governments who “fail to protect” their citizens and tax-exempt Christian institutions who export hate and fear.
We call on all countries to adopt the Yogyakarta Principles which say, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.”
The United Nations Faith Coalition for Human Rights is a growing network of thousands of people of faith around the world who work for respect, inclusion, equality and human rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.