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Modern Day Ugandan Prophet Relives Elijah Story

When the prophet Elijah went up against the false prophets of King Ahab he had to escape for his life to a cave at Mt Horeb. Now Rev Mark Kiyimba, the pastor of a Unitarian Universalist church in Kampala, Uganda finds that the Ugandan powers-that-be are threatened by the life-affirming stance of inclusion and acceptance lived out in his congregation’s ministry. So because he has spoken publicly and forcefully for civil rights for the sexual minority communities he has had to flee from this country. The recent assassination of Ugandan gay activist David Kato shows what is at stake when righteous people attempt to live out an ethic of radical inclusion there. Iin Uganda being gay or lesbian is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment.

But this is not just about taking a political stance. It is about ‘walking the walk’ Kiyumba’s congregation not only believes in inclusion it also hosts a school for 550 children who were all orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic, with 123 of those children living with HIV themselves. Apparently such activities are not enough to compensate for the minister’s heinous reputation of inclusion.

But before we dismiss this state of affairs as incomprehensible and foreign to our experience, North Americans should be aware that it is the US homophobic Christian churches who have created this dangerous situation. It is westerners who have helped Ugandan politicians develop  proposed legislation that, if passed would make homosexuality a capital offense. It would require all parents, teachers and physicians to report to the authorities any person whom they know or suspect is gay or lesbian. Failure to do so would be a crime and reason for arrest. When I spoke with someone about how unspeakable such legislation was and the destruction of any sense of community or trust in that culture, a friend said it reminded him of Nazi Germany under Hitler. So it seems King Ahabs regularly appear throughout history forcing good people to flee for their lives.

We might ask ourselves how is it that compassionate acts of mercy and the belief in egalitarianism could possibly be labeled as subversive or a danger to the common good of society?  We might ask how perverted minds can twist the gospel to justify persecution, although for the sexual minority communities this is, unfortunately, nothing new. But the good news here is that, similar to Elijah’s day when he thought he was alone, God indicated there were seven thousand loyal and righteous followers who had his back. Now Rev Kiyimba knows many US churches have his as well. He is not alone. Uganda is not forgotten. Compassion ultimately always wins over the forces of evil while small but powerful communities of righteous people always line up to battle injustice. Darkness cannot overcome the light. It is light that always overpowers the shadows.

The UU choir where Rev Kiyimba spoke this week sang an appropriate song fot he occasion. It captured the essence of solidarity in the struggle and is entitled "Stand" by Amy Carol Webb.

"When injustice raises up its fist And fights to stop us in our tracks We will rise and as one resist No fear nor sorrow can turn us back.

When broken hearts come knocking on our door
Lost and hungry and so alone
We will reach as we have reached before
For there is no stranger in this our home

I will stand with you – Will you stand with me
And we will be the change -- That we hope to see
In the name of love -- In the name of peace
Will you stand, will you stand with me?"

May God bless all our modern day prophets who are standing up to the injustice and unrighteousness of the "King Ahabs" of our day.

(To support Rev Kiyimba’s  work in Kampala during his absence, simply contact a local UU congregation and make a donation in his name.)

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