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Bishop Christopher to “bless the hands of our healers” in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, named by the Huffington Post as one of the top 10 religious voices of 2010, will lead a blessing ceremony at the LifeHOUSE San Diego health care center on Tuesday.

Often called Uganda's answer to Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Bishop Christopher is one of the leading voices fighting for human rights and LGBT equality in Uganda, Africa and around the world.

Bishop Christopher has been in San Diego since late last week, and he has been updating the community on the plight of the LGBT community in his native land.

The blessing ceremony will be from 6 to 8 pm Tuesday, Aug. 23, at LifeHOUSE, 2828 Meadowlark Drive, San Diego, CA 92123. Call (858) 277-6460. The bishop will bless the hands of doctors, nurses and all engaged in the business of healing.

San Diego Healthcare Center is one of the largest nursing facilities in California with 305-bed capacity and more than 330 full-time staff. The programs include one of the largest dementia care facilities in San Diego and a new LGBT/HIV & AIDS Program, which has been four years in the planning stages.

“I admire the staff and families at San Diego Healthcare Center because healing does not discriminate," Bishop Christopher said. "God has given us hands to bring healing to each other and we will bless the hands of caregivers, who day in day out care for us. It is a way to thank them for what they are doing and to recognize the need to welcome everyone. I admire the work of the staff and their care of the marginalized and rejected, including people living with AIDS.”

The bishop arrived in San Diego after attending the Edinburgh Peace Festival. He has recently opened an HIV program in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and is looking forward to learning about the needs of families and people with AIDS in San Diego. In May, the bishop was also invited to contribute to the planning for the United Nations High Level meeting on AIDS.

“When you are a family, you feed everyone in the household, you do not discriminate. The same moral principal applies to people living with HIV and to LGBT people. We are part of the same human family,” Bishop Christopher said.

The bishop has been targeted for his inclusive work and has been excommunicated as a bishop from his own Anglican Church of Uganda for counseling LGBT persons.

The main purpose of the bishop’s “Compass to Compassion” tour of the USA is to raise awareness about the plight of LGBT people who live in the 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality.

“It is illegal to provide these children of God with education, prevention services and health care. How can we withhold our healing hands from anyone, particularly when we are told to do so in the name of God?"

The bishop was the leading religious voice opposing the Bahati Bill, also known as the "Kill The Gays" bill, which if passed will require Ugandan clergy, counselors and health care workers to report patients who are suspected of being LGBT. The bill has been deferred and its author David Bahati intends to bring it forward again in the new session of parliament.

Bishop Christopher has also been critical of so called “ex-gay therapy” that is supported by Scott Lively, Bahati and several leading mega churches in the San Diego region, including the Rock Church and Skyline Church.

“It is a pseudo-science and the American Psychological Association has reported on the harm it is doing to many families who have been convinced homosexuality is a choice and can be 'prayed away,''' the bishop said.

Bishop Christopher is concerned that the ex-gay movement is one of the leading factors why Bahati and Lively are encouraging more severe state punishment for gay people in the hope they will change rather than facing prison or the death sentence.

“Most of all, we need healing from lies, deliberate misinformation and the damage that has been done to millions of LGBT people all over the world who continue to be persecuted just because of who they are,” he said.

The bishop is inviting other clergy leaders, health professionals and community members to join him and the staff at San Diego Healthcare Center on Tuesday. Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to Alex Medina, Assistant Executive Director of San Diego Healthcare Center, at (858) 277-6460.

Bishop Christopher will take part in a press conference at the facility earlier in the afternoon from 4-5 p.m. with the Executive Director, Dr. Bolten, and the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation.