Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Death, Hate, and a Response

I'm glad to see the Bishops of the Episcopal Church are beginning to respond to David Kato's death.

Statement on the murder of David Kato
The Right Reverend Thomas Clark Ely
February 1, 2011

           On January 26, David Kato, a leader in a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) Ugandans was brutally murdered in his home in Mukono, Uganda. While police are treating the murder as the result of a robbery, Kato’s friends and associates, as well as supporters outside Uganda, believe the fatal beating was an act of hate likely inspired by the current anti-gay climate in Uganda. Kato, an Anglican, had received death threats, particularly since October 2010, when his picture appeared on the front page of a newspaper with the headline "100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak," and a banner reading "Hang Them."

           Vermont Episcopalians are fortunate to live in a state where our baptismal call to “respect the dignity of every human being” is reflected in our laws and, for the most part, in our social environment. In Uganda, on the other hand, one can be put in prison for life for being LGBT, and even more draconian legislation that would impose the death penalty has been proposed.

           Our good fortune could easily lead to complacency, but I believe it is instead a charge—almost a command—to stand in solidarity with those in Uganda and all parts of the world whose lives are endangered and diminished for who they are as LGBT human beings. It is a charge to speak out and call upon our political and religious leaders to do all in their power to bring an end to the climate of hate and fear that affects so many of our sisters and brothers around the world.

           Unfortunately, church leaders, including some in the Anglican Communion, have been complicit in creating that climate of hate and fear. I am grateful that others have spoken out in opposition. I join with them in an emphatic call for both church and society to respect the dignity of all God’s children. And, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu would say, ALL, ALL, ALL are God’s beloved.

           President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and many of the world’s political leaders have condemned Kato’s murder and the anti-gay climate in which it took place. Many have encouraged them to be sensitive to LGBT asylum seekers who attempt to enter the US. I support that effort.
           Responding to Kato’s murder, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said, "No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others…. This is a moment to take very serious stock and to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities."    

           Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said Kato's murder "deprives his people of a significant and effective voice, and we pray that the world may learn from his gentle and quiet witness, and begin to receive a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone. May he rest in peace, and may his work continue to bring justice and dignity for all God's children."

           Please join Bishop Katharine and me in praying for David Kato, for those living in fear because of who they are, and for a heart of flesh to take hold in those who would persecute their fellow children of God because of who they are drawn to love.

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