David Kato was probably murdered because of how he loved. That was his only crime. Not because he treated people badly. Not because he stole or created terrorism. His murder probably occurred because he was an openly gay man and an outspoken advocate for gay rights in his country. He was bludgeoned to death on January 26, 2011 just a few weeks after winning a court injunction against the magazine that called for the death of many of Uganda’s gay citizens.
At his funeral, rather than sharing remarks about the loss of a beautiful person or the ways that David’s life touched and empowered others, the minister called for repentance and shame. Regardless of how you might feel about someone in life it seems unforgiveable to speak badly about him or her while acknowledging his or her passing. It seems an extreme and cruel action when the individual is not alive to neither defend nor address your actions. But somehow it has become a popular method at the burials of LGBT citizens around the world. Here in the US, a religious group actively seeks out funerals of LGBT citizens as a way to spread their beliefs against homosexuality. It seems so counter to the messages of love and respect for your neighbors that are throughout Christian scripture.
“Before you echo ‘Amen’ in your home or place of worship, think and remember…a child is listening.” ~Mary Griffith
Over the weekend, I watched a 2009 Lifetime movie called Prayers for Bobby. Sigourney Weaver played Mary Griffith, a devoutly Christian women who’s son was gay and eventually killed himself, in part because his close knit and religious family indicated their disgust for his actions and pushed for him to change. Unable to change as they requested, even after therapy, prayers and a consistent desire, he took his life by jumping off a bridge into oncoming traffic. Mary Griffith struggled with his death and her understanding of scripture and allowed the minister at his funeral to speak negatively of her child and his lifestyle. Eventually Mary comes to understand how wrong she was and becomes a strong advocate for gay rights. Unfortunately, she had to lose her son to get to this place of understanding.
In Uganda, living as a homosexual can bring you a sentence of life in prison. In many other places it can lead to capital punishment, torture or exile. For those involved in human rights and for individuals who are working for social change, we must continue to understand these types of larger social policies around the world. Most importantly, we must continue to question the harshness of laws around the world.
If this were an issue of individuals of different races loving each other, one might be quick to state how wrong it is to stop people from loving one another. It has become a societal norm for the most part in the U.S. to not make issue of interracial relationships. It was only a few decades ago where these same relationships would have been illegal. At the time, bible verses about separation were also used as reasons against race mixing and individuals that went against this societal norm faced persecution. Today, that type of thinking seems almost comical and represents a sad moment in our country’s history. We learned that loving someone of another color is not wrong and does nothing to erode the fabric of the how our society functions. For the sake of more lives, it is hopeful that one day the same will be true for the David Katos and Bobby Griffiths of the world, who love the same gender.Thenera is the President of The SISGI Group a consulting and research organization dedicated to addressing global issues through sustainable impacts and strategic global initiatives. To learn more go to www.sisgigroup.org