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Monday, January 30, 2012

David Kato: God loves you. God created you. God is on your side.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the murder of David Kato, Ugandan gay-rights activist.

Kato was 46 years old. His life had been threatened for months. His picture even appeared on the front page of a right-wing Ugandan newspaper which bore the headline: "100 Pictures of Uganda's Top Homos Leak" and "Hang Them: They are After Our Kids".

I wrote about his funeral last year in a piece I titled, "Unbearable Sadness". Indeed, blogger stats report that it's the 5th highest read blog post here at Telling Secrets, with almost 11,000 page views.

I had been deeply moved by a video shown on Rachel Maddow that night which depicted scenes from Kato's funeral. Local town and religious officials said hateful things and tried to disrupt the prayers and attempts to give Kato a dignified, peaceful burial.

I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Kato's death has achieved martyr status in many communities around the world.

Which is why there has been talk at the Creating Change Conference, held this past week in Baltimore, Maryland, to nominate a Queer activist for a Nobel Prize.

According to Jay Michaelson over at Religious Dispatches, there are two leading candidates for consideration: Frank Mugisha and Kasha Jacqueline Nagabesera, two Ugandan LGBT activists who have risked their lives to advance the cause of freedom, in one of the most hostile societal contexts on Earth.

Although he, himself, is heterosexual, I would add the name of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Anglican Ugandan bishop who stepped up at Kato's funeral, faced down the angry mob and officiated at the burial service. 

He told the mourning LGBT friends of David Kato: "Do not be discouraged. God created you. God loves you. God is on your side".

Bishop Christopher lost his pension and his ability to function in any ecclesiastical way in Uganda as the cost of his discipleship to LGBT Ugandans.

One way to create change in the hearts and minds of people is for an international committee to recognize the work of these activists to bring peace and reconciliation for people who have long been held in the vice grip of the violence inherent in oppression.

It's about time.

I'm sure David Kato did not want to die at age 46. I'm quite certain that no one wants to be bludgeoned to death by a hammer in their own home.  I'm also convinced that no one wants to be oppressed or feel the cruel sting of bigotry, prejudice and hatred because their very existence doesn't meet the criteria of those in power and authority to be deemed fully human.

How is his death at the hands of people who had been seized by homophobic rage any different than being killed - or threatened with death or life imprisonment by laws enforced by the State and supported by the Church - because they were Irish or Black South African or the Middle Eastern or Polish or Serbian or.... fill in the blank?

A Nobel Prize would recognize on the international stage that a great injustice is being done. It would recognize and reward those who are actively working to relieve the suffering of a targeted group of people. It would also inspire those around the world who are working to create change and bring about peace and reconciliation.

Most importantly, it will bring a form of judgment against those who create and perpetuate archaic and draconian laws and, perhaps, create some change in some of the most hostile societal contexts on the face of the Earth.

No, it won't bring back David Kato, but it might prevent the deaths of other David Katos in Uganda and around the world. It might provide some measure of protection for LGBT people and encourage young LGBT people that their lives are worth living and not ending in suicide.

It will remind the right wing that sticks and stones can, indeed, break bones and names can not only hurt but kill people. The truth of the matter is that right-wing rhetoric leads to right-wing violence, and not only must it end, but those who perpetuate this violence must be held accountable for it.

A Nobel Prize to an LGBT Activist would be a tribute to the life of David Kato and become his best legacy. It won't make sense of his death, but it may instill some sense into those who hide behind Scripture and The Law while they wield swords (and hammers) of hate.

On the first anniversary of the unbearable sadness of his death, I can't think of a better way to honor his life than to continue his work.

At Kato's funeral, Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo said,"Do not be discouraged. God created you. God loves you. God is on your side".

I think a Nobel Prize for an LGBT activist is the best way to embody those words.

Don't you?


John said...

I agree with you, a Nobel Prize should be given.

David Kato is certainly a martyr and a hero for so many of us. Had David been alive I would have given the prize to him. Brave and fearless he stood up and fought for the right to be what he was born to be, himself, David Kato.

While I mourn in deep sorrow the death of this brave man I hope someone of the other that fougth with David, and still keep fighting, can get a Nobel Prize. It is well deserved.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Has a Nobel Prize ever been given posthumously?

JCF said...

No (answer to your question, Lizbeth).

Hear, hear (to your post!)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, makes sense, I suppose. And, thank you, JCF.

Matthew said...

I agree that it would be nice, but we also have to do our part to educate people about the plight of glbt people in Africa. I think Susan Russell mentioned a film a year or so ago about glbt christians in AFrica. I recall seeing about 20 minutes of it. We should show it in our churches on Sunday and have a dialogue about it. We also need to talk about the "kill gays" bill, maybe even from the pulpit.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Absolutely, Matthew. Not either/or but both/and.