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PFLAG Perspective: Uganda's voice of integrity - Bishop Senjonyo visits PFLAG SD

SAN DIEGO -- Human rights/LGBT activist Anglican Bishop (Ret) Christopher Senjonyo has long taken great risks in defense of LGBT people in Uganda.

He was pictured with LGBT activist David Kato in late 2010 on the infamous cover of Uganda’s now defunct “Rolling Stone” newspaper (no relation to the US magazine) under the lead "Hang Them." Names and addresses of Ugandan’s gays were listed in the paper.

Kato was murdered in January of 2011 and at his funeral, the Bishop took over the service when the presiding minister’s homophobic remarks threatened to bring chaos.

Senjonyo took an early stand against the infamous Anti-homosexuality Bill proposed in Uganda earlier this year.

Among other things, it calls for gays and lesbians convicted of having sex to be sentenced to life in prison. People who test positive for HIV can be executed.

He has strongly condemned the bill as a violation of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights and a violation of the sacred bonds of the Ugandan extended family system

A Voice of Integrity for Uganda

Christopher Senjonyo served as a bishop in the Anglican Church of Uganda from 1974 to 1998, as reported by the Center for American Progress website. In 1998 Uganda's President called for greater criminalization of homosexuality.

At this time, the Bishop agreed to counsel some young gay men and learned about the fear, rejection and harassment they were experiencing. He helped them find ways to accept themselves and urged them to keep their faith, because God loves them. Members of the group formed Integrity Uganda for support and advocacy, and Bishop Senjonyo agreed to serve as their chaplain and chairperson.

A series of reprisals followed. In March 2001, the Anglican Church of Uganda denounced Integrity Uganda and Christopher was vehemently attacked personally for his support of the group. He received death threats which prompted him to flee to the U.S. for sanctuary.

He continues to speak out.

"I want to assure you that there is no turning back on this road to full inclusion and pastoral sensitivity to all God's people in our church, and therefore, I call upon the good leadership of my church in Uganda, to respond pastorally and quickly to all these unfortunate and open-ended forms of anarchy, which only serve to dent the good image of the Church," the Bishop has said.

Hate No More

Building on the work of Bishop Senjonyo, David Kato and other activists in Uganda, have banded together to fight against the rise in anti-gay sentiment as described by Naeesa Aziz in an article on the Gary Rights Uganda web page.

The campaign, named Hate No More, is being led by both Freedom and Roam Uganda and the Uganda Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a coalition of 30 human rights organizations.

The success of the Hate No More campaign has the potential to have wide-reaching effects on the African continent, where many countries have discriminatory laws against homosexuals.

However, since Kato’s death in January, attacks against the country’s gay community have continued. Activist groups continue to face harassment. The home of LGBT activist Najib Kabuye was set on fire while he was trapped inside.

The offices of Freedom and Roam Uganda were recently broken into and their computers and membership lists were stolen, according to Jessica Green for PinkNews.co.uk and as cited on the Gay Rights Uganda website.

The Anti-homosexuality Bill is being re-considered and may come up for a vote as soon as the end of August. Clearly the situation for Uganda’s LGBT people remains dangerous. Groups working for even the most basic rights face tremendous challenges.

Michelle Bachmann’s Unsightly Ugandan Ties

The Uganda story takes on an odd twist that brings the issue very close to home, as stories have begun to circulate about Peter Waldron, a Michele Bachmann strategist, his arrest and imprisonment in Uganda as a gun runner and his ties to conservative Ugandan circles.

Earlier this week, Granace Franke-Ruta, a senior editor at The Atlantic, broke an earth-shattering story about this same Waldron, revealing his ties to Bachmann, his Evangelical roots, and his terrorism arrest.

But now the story deepens.

Warren Throckmorton, one of the top sources that The New Civil Rights Movement uses on all-things-Uganda, has found the key link between Waldron and Uganda’s Pastor Martin Ssempa, whose work against the gay community in Uganda has brought the Kill The Gays Bill close to a vote, and possibly, passage.

Throckmorton wrote, "Peter Waldron who helped Michele Bachmann win the Iowa straw poll on Saturday was arrested in Uganda in 2006 for illegal possession of rifles. And he boasted a familiar Ugandan pastor as a friend."

Join PFLAG San Diego when it hosts Bishop Christopher at this month's general meeting and continue the dialog about the situation for LGBT people in Uganda, and Africa in general. See below for more details.

From the PFLAG San Diego File

South Bay Pride

On Saturday, August 20, South Bay Alliance will be hosting their 4th Annual South Bay Pride event at Memorial Park in Chula Vista between Noon-7:00 pm. There’s great food (natch), Children's Garden and a Beer Garden (something for everyone). There’s a long list of entertainers, including the San Diego Women’s Drum Circle, San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, and comedy with Laugh Out Loud.

As we have done since the first South Bay Pride event, our San Diego PFLAG chapter will have a booth there.

The South Bay Pride festival is free; although, if you would like to make a $5 donation as you enter, it would be appreciated.

Memorial Park is located at 373 Park Way, Chula Vista, CA between 4th and 3rd Avenues, just north of "H" Street.

Monthly General Meeting

Human Rights/LGBT Activist Anglican Bishop (Ret) Christopher Senjonyo will be at PFLAG San Diego's General Meeting at 7 pm, Monday, August 22nd and will lead a discussion of LGBT issues in Uganda. The meeting is at 7:00 PM at the First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley.

This is also our Annual Potluck Summer Picnic, which will be followed by support groups. Feel free to come and enjoy a meal and participate in the discussion with Bishop Senjonyo. Bring a dish to share -- see newsletter for suggestions.

22nd Annual AIDS Walk

Get geared up to walk with PFLAG on Sunday, September 25.

The 5K Walk (or 10K run) is held in Balboa Park at Quince and 6th Avenue starting at 8:00 am. The registration fee is $35 ($25 for 17 & under and 60+).

If we have ten or more walkers registered by September 16, we will qualify as Team PFLAG and be able to walk with the prestigious sneaker sign with our PFLAG name on it. It truly is a badge of honor. We need your support. Please register to walk with us HERE

Just select Register at the top of the page, then Join an Existing Team. Either enter PFLAG San Diego or Search for a Team and find PFLAG San Diego. Click on the Join button and follow the instructions.

About PFLAG San Diego County Chapter

PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through support, to cope with an adverse society, education, to enlighten an ill-informed public and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.

PFLAG San Diego meets every fourth Monday of the month at the First United Methodist Church, 2111 Camino del Rio South in Mission Valley. For more information, visit their pflag.com website or call the PFLAG SD support line, at (888) 398-0006.

You can also follow PFLAG San Diego on Facebook and also on Twitter.

Mark Thompson has been a PFLAG member for six years, including two years as co-president (with his wife Karen) and a year as treasurer. He says his experience of helping in the LGBT community has been one of the most rewarding he's ever had. Mark has lived in San Diego since the late 1960s, is a land use/environmental consultant, and is currently working on a novel.