My name is Rev. Mark Kiyimba, and I am the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Kampala, Uganda. I also run a housing program for orphans of HIV victims, HIV+ youth and homeless LGBTI youth. I oppose the current iteration of the anti-gay law now in parliament, and have organized yearly conferences with other faith leaders calling for an end to violence and hatred against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
(Watch a video version of my message, filmed at our UU Congregation in Kampala, below.)
In the last 5 years, homophobic churches in Uganda that promote intolerance have been visited by high profile Western leaders and supported by major American Christian organizations. Western Evangelicals have been sending celebrity pastors, hundreds of missionaries and organizing major conferences in Uganda promoting intolerance and punishments for gays.
What we need is for influential high profile religious leaders who are tolerant and anti-hatred, to show solidarity with the more progressive churches of Uganda. We need to organize large religious conferences that teach a gospel of love and dignity for all. We need more Unitarian Universalists to stand on the side of love with us as we work to promote love and tolerance in Uganda.
Just this week, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office screened the film God Loves Uganda, in conjunction with a panel discussion titled: “No Longer in My Name, A Faith-Based Response to Faith-Based Intolerance.” This documentary is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow their interpretation of Biblical law.
I urge you to host your own screening in your congregation or community to raise awareness about this issue. Click here for more information, including links to trailers and how to host a screening.
I believe that there are many religious leaders in Uganda who can be moved to speak out against violence and hatred towards LGBT people. But they feel too alone and afraid to speak their hearts. The support of the American Religious Right has contributed to this alienation. The success of their messaging has led to the creation of the “kill the gays bill” in parliament. Today this proposed hateful legislation has the support of over 85% of Ugandans.
Religious leaders in Uganda who are LGBT allies have been shunned by our government and largely ignored by our western allies. Bishops have been fired and made poor after promoting tolerance and love. We feel alone here.
However, if faith leaders change their tone and begin speaking out against hate and violence, then we can turn the tide of faith-based intolerance in Uganda. We will not only defeat the anti-gay bill, but change the hearts and minds of Ugandans with respect to the treatment of LGBT people.
There are many ways you can take action, from showing the film God Loves Uganda, to supporting the Unitarian Universalist Association LGBT Uganda Fund, which is one of the only funds dedicated to supporting faith based LGBT advocacy in Uganda. With your help and collaboration, we will help to educate people about what is going on in Uganda and organize religious conferences across Africa with a very different faith message.
We can tell those who promote hate and violence in the name of the God, that they no longer speak in the name of all communities of faith. The majority of communities of faith believe tolerance and peace. Please help us spread this gospel of love. Our lives are depending on it.
Rev. Mark Kiyimba
The message above went out on Friday, June 14, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
We gathered in bright Standing on the Side of Love tee shirts, with hundreds of other activists at the California State Capitol on May 20 to lobby our legislators and support our immigrant neighbors. We held a rally to mark the 17th Annual Immigrant Day in Sacramento before meeting with the offices of our state assembly members to argue for bills such as the TRUST Act to curb deportations in California.
As we walked around the capitol building behind the Standing on the Side of Love banner, our golden shirts merged with the monarch butterflies of other marchers to symbolize migration as a human right. Our Standing on the Side of Love shirts did more than give us visibility–they helped forge solidarity with other groups. People recognize our shirts and respect what they stand for.
The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California co-sponsored this year’s action with the California Immigrant Policy Center. Nearly 70 UU’s from across the state helped organize teams to meet with state assembly members by district. Many UUs had previous training and experience with legislative visits and were also knowledgeable about the issues, so they became team leaders.
We will need to follow-up our visits with letters and phone calls, but the impact of hundreds of constituents converging on the California State Capitol was felt in the halls of the Assembly.
This post was submitted by Caryl Hughan. Caryl is the Social Justice Co-Chair at UU San Mateo.More >
Last year when we witnessed together in Phoenix, we saw the power that comes with accompanying communities in their work toward justice. We were overjoyed to have thousands of Unitarian Universalists vigil with those on the frontlines in Arizona with the hope that Sheriff Arpaio’s tent city jail will someday be shut down.
Now, as many of us prepare to head to another Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly (GA), I ask that you add your name, along with that of UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, to a letter asking President Obama to suspend deportations as Congress works toward immigration reform.
Since May 1st, people from our network around the country have been participating in a rolling fast to engage faith communities and call on the President to stop the suffering of people being deported today who could be offered citizenship tomorrow.
Since GA last year, we’ve done so much together. We were grateful and honored that many of you were involved with hosting the historic “No Papers No Fear” ride for justice that gave us all a new example of courage. I was happy to see Unitarian Universalist Barbara Moore sit in solidarity with young undocumented people in an act of civil disobedience last week in Los Angeles. And I’m heartened to know that there are UU congregations, and Standing on the Side of Love supporters, everywhere who are working for immigration justice. We know that our partnership is deep, profound, and stronger every day.
We need immigration reform so badly and no one knows that better than the families who go to bed worrying if they’ll be together tomorrow. That’s why it was easy for so many faith leaders to already add their names to this letter and I hope it is for you as well.
Click here to add your name to the petition.
Today, maybe even as you are reading this, representatives from 500 organizations will be delivering their letter to the President and they will point to this faith petition to show that the demand is only growing. Please be part of that groundswell.
I look forward to seeing many of you at GA 2013. Let’s make this another year for justice.
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
PS: Going to the 2013 General Assembly next week in Louisville? Join me and UUA President Rev. Peter Morales in a workshop called “Road from Phoenix: Building on Justice General Assembly” on Thursday, June 20 at 10:45am.
The message above went out on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
As people of faith seeking to support just and compassionate immigration reform, how do we avoid becoming lost in the legal, ethical, and political maze that surrounds this issue? How do we gain the knowledge to confidently witness for respect and inclusion?
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Marion County, Florida (UUFMC) has found one answer in partnering with a local Latino immigrant community for mutual support and fellowship. The personal relationships we’ve formed there can inform our policy positions. By hearing and seeing and sometimes living the stories of our immigrant neighbors, we’re gaining firsthand knowledge of why they’ve come here and the challenges they face. This is to say nothing of gaining a little empathy.
Many immigrants are struggling through separation from family, geographical isolation, social isolation in a strange culture, problems with schooling for children, problems with day care, problems with medical care, problems with transportation, problems with poverty and employment, and fear of authority figures of all sorts. For some of these problems we can help only a little, but we can learn to listen when we don’t have a language barrier, or just hold hands.
So, when we must come to grips with a very complicated piece of legislation like the 844-page Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, we will have the great advantage of being grounded in love and reality. We will still not have all the answers, but we will be much better able to rely upon the still, small voice of our instincts telling us what policies make sense.
This post was written by Nelson Hay. Nelson is a member of the Welcoming Congregation Committee and Communication Committee at the UU Fellowship of Marion County, Florida.More >
Why did I participate in the Jericho Walk around the Hart Senate Office Building?
I walked because I was asked. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get our fellow spiritual activists involved; ask them to join you.
I’ve been engaged in a small way in various actions on immigration issues through the Unitarian Universalist Association, UUs for Social Justice in the National Capital Region (UUSJ), Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), and my congregation, Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Burke, Virginia. I participated in the action at the Maricopa County Tent City Jail at Justice General Assembly in 2012 and several events on the National Mall, including the April 10, 2013 National Immigration Rally at the Capitol. Partly because of the training and education opportunities provided by UUSJ, Accotink passed a congregational statement of conscience on immigration as a moral issue in April 2011 and received a modicum of press coverage for it. Our delegates are prepared to vote for a UUA statement of conscience on immigration at General Assembly 2013. I’ve worked on a number of immigration related issues with our faith community colleagues in VOICE in several jurisdictions in Northern Virginia.
Our UUA Standing on the Side of Love campaign has provided a gold mine of options for making faith-based expressions of love for all people: yellow shirts support a gay pride parade, and yellow shirts support our immigrant siblings who are looking for a place to raise families.
On May 16, UUs joined with our partners at the New Sanctuary Movement in a Jericho Walk around the Senate office buildings. The instructions for the Jericho Walk were to walk in silence, no signs. Wearing white robes was as attention-getting for a group of ten as a sea of yellow shirts. Going into the Hart Senate Office Building to walk and to visit the Senate Judiciary Committee as they debated the comprehensive immigration bill made our walk more visible to the senators. When we entered the hearing room, the presence of clergy and a faith community group was noticed. On one round of our walk we were greeted by one of Senator Hatch’s staffers as she and the Senator entered the elevator reserved for senators. The appearance of a small group in white robes followed by a larger group of mostly Latina/o allies circling, stopping, praying in the Hart Building atrium didn’t have impact for me until I saw photographs. We filled the atrium and were a visible sign. While I know that getting comprehensive immigration reform passed will take more than just our silent walk, I believe the work that UUs are doing, in conjunction with our partners, will have an impact.
This post was written by Pete Fontneau. Pete is a member of Accotink UU Church in Burke, Virginia.More >