HRC’s Harry Knox on Anti-LGBT Rhetoric in Uganda
April 27, 2010
Today Harry Knox, Director for HRC’s Religion and Faith Program spoke at public vigil at National City Christian Church in Washington, DC, as part of a group of faith leaders speaking out in support Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He delivered the following inspirational remarks...
My name is Harry Knox and I lead the Religion and Faith program of the Human Rights Campaign. I am a Christian who comes from a family of Bible quoting, Jesus loving Christians. I am also a gay man who along with my friends here, has devoted my adult life to presenting a different kind of Christianity than the Christianity we are seeing exported today by U.S. fundamentalists like Lou Engle. It breaks my heart to see the faith I love, the faith that has carried me and my family through its darkest hours used to destroy people. It breaks my heart to see the rich and varied religious traditions of this country, traditions that shape the moral fiber of who we are as Americans, distorted to such wicked and sinful ends. The time is now for the whole world to see another face of Christianity from the United States. We need to say loudly and clearly that persecution of LGBT people in Uganda is wrong. In Malawi, in Brazil, in Iran, in Eastern Europe, in Jamaica, in the USA and the whole world, when sexual orientation and gender identity are used to imprison, execute or persecute people, it must stop. As people of faith, we can come to no other conclusion. Our very survival depends on how we act today. I will never forget the story of my new Ugandan friend, Moses Kayizer, a young gay man seeking asylum in the United States. I first met Moses in February when he spoke at the Press Club about his experiences in Uganda. Wearing a paper bag over his head for fear of persecution, Moses recounted how he had been forced to marry a woman, was assaulted at school, raped by a policeman, and fired from his job because he is gay. “One would rather die than come out of the closet” he told us. I understand how a sense of hopelessness and fury can set in when people face massive poverty and disease with little hope of release. Another Moses understood this well and through his strong faith carried his people from bondage to freedom. Jesus understood this too and gave the most marginalized in his day a new religion of hope centered on loving God with all our might and loving our neighbor as if they were our self, for indeed they are. This is the faith that held African Americans together as they faced the unimaginably brutal yoke of slavery; this is the faith that gave brave men and woman the courage to put their own bodies on the line--facing down water hoses and the jaws of vicious dogs--for Civil Rights in this country. This is the faith that under that astonishing leadership of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu inspired South Africa to find a path toward reconciliation and to create the most inclusive and loving constitution on the planet. This is the faith that gave Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, expelled from the Church of Uganda by Archbishop Henry Orombi in 2006 for his support of homosexuals, the courage to remain vigilant and prophetic in his ministry despite persecution and even death threats. Let us today wrap our arms today around this Christianity. This is not a Christianity we need to export because it is deep and present in the souls of Ugandans as it is in the souls of Americans. This is a Christianity we need to hold up, a Christianity that like Jesus’ love knows no boundaries: no nations, no color, no class, no sexual orientation, no gender identity. This is a Christianity that begins with our deep love and commitment to one another.
Right-wing extremist Lou Engle will hold his upcoming “The Call” stadium rally in Kampala, Uganda on May 2. Aside from today's event in DC, other groups are holding vigils around the country. The Kansas City Clergy Coalition will host a vigil in Lou Engle’s hometown of Kansas City. This event will take place on Wednesday, April 28 at 12:00 noon at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 3800 Troost Ave, Kansas City, MO. Sign the petition Stop The Call to Violence in Uganda.
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