Gay Ugandan Refugees Discuss “Kill the Gays” Bill at Church’s Pride Service

Illustration by MJ Eckhouse/Pixabay/torbakhopper/Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)

Last weekend, Worthington United Methodist Church hosted the annual Pride Service, a church service that promotes the reconciliation of people with God. The service’s main message is that LGBTQ people are valid and they are God’s children, too. 

For this year’s sermon, two gay refugees from Uganda, David Senabulya and Keith Roscoe Ssekabira, spoke about their home country’s persecution of gay people. The two men gave a disturbing and eye-opening look into how anti-gay white evangelicals influenced Uganda’s laws against homosexuality.

Senabulya explained that his country didn’t always have the level of intolerance it has today. He discussed how those changes happened in the last decade, when American Christians arrived and influenced the Ugandan parliament.

In 2009, Uganda’s parliament proposed legislation which became known as the “kill the gays” bill. The bill would have made homosexuality and HIV-positive status a criminal offense, punishable by hanging. This bill provoked international outrage, but was only partially reformed. 

Later, the bill was modified to replace the death sentence with life in prison. Gay people in Uganda still faced increased persecution from their fellow citizens, the Guardian reported.

Senabulya mentioned a documentary titled “God Loves Uganda,” created by Roger Ross Williams, a gay, African-American film director. In a Mother Jones interview, Williams discussed how the film reveals the same point that Senabulya and Ssekabira raised in their sermon: how toxic white evangelism has been in Uganda.

After addressing their home country’s ongoing persecution of gay people, Senabulya and Ssekabira opined about how even when society rejects LGBTQ people, God gladly welcomes them. The New Testament’s Wedding Banquet Parable discusses how God deliberately invites the poor and the outcast into his home, as noted in Luke 14:21.

Ssekabira also mentioned the passage, 1st Corinthians 13:4-7, which defines love as selfless and kind, along with 1st Corinthians 13:1-3, which states that any action or faith without love is pointless. So, the “Christians” who condemn LGBTQ people as inherently sinful, fall into this category of pointless, loveless actions.

Chris Rehs Dupin, a trans man, also spoke at the Pride Service. Dupin told his story of growing up believing that God was utterly against him, until attending a service at North Broadway United Methodist Church where he heard, for the first time, that God loves him unconditionally. This moment re-inspired Dupin’s lost faith, and brought him into a church community where he feels loved and accepted without exception.

Dupin discussed how individuals attempt at a disproportionately high rate compared to the general population. He observed how this rate decreases when trans people’s friends, families and communities accept them. Dupin also emphasized that many LGBTQ people still believe that God is completely against them, and for this reason, struggle to come out and accept themselves.

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