Uganda: As AIDS worsens, archbishop is an obstacle

20 May

Uganda: As AIDS worsens, archbishop is an obstacle

Posted on May 10, 2013 by 

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, who fought AIDS in Uganda in the 1990s and then saw it rebound in recent years, returned there recently to work on developing a gay-straight health-care alliance to continue the fight.  He made progress, but the homophobic Church of Uganda  continues to give higher priority to demonizing homosexuals than to comforting the afflicted, as this account of his run-in with former Archbishop Henry Orombi shows:

Albert Ogle

Thirteen years later, I found myself back in Kampala to support the work of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who is the only Anglican bishop in Uganda who has opposed the Bahati bill [the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also known as the “Kill the Gays” bill] and gives counseling and services to the LGBT community.

Despite church sanctions, he continues to offer an inclusive and alternative narrative to the whole community and has built up an interesting gay/straight alliance for people who work together on income-generating programs, lesbian, for straight and transgender women who have developed a fashion and crafts business and for the AIDS program that is funded through the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

His HIV staff also provides important sensitization training over a two-day period for nurses, health workers, counselors and doctors to detoxify the decade-long propaganda campaign that has demonized LGBT Ugandans from important health services. The training is very successful and I took part in one of the two-day trainings only two weeks ago. Caregivers want to do the right thing and with the information they need they can create a safe and confidential place for EVERYONE, including some of the most vulnerable populations.

Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda (Photo courtesy of SDGLN.com)

So in the context of visiting Kampala, I decided to pay a courtesy visit to the former Archbishop of Uganda, Dr. Henry Orombi, and to talk about what I was doing in his country and to ask for his help. We met briefly at his offices and although he was too busy to see me, he checked out my work through my website and Facebook page and felt obliged to call the church guest house I was staying in to ask them to throw me out.

“What was a man like this doing in Uganda?” His response is important from two aspects and I want you to think about this in your own relationships with LGBT and allies in your own networks. Given my long lifetime relationship with Uganda, the Church of Uganda and the institutions I have helped to resource, all of this history and value was completely overridden by one aspect of my personality.

My being a gay man or working with Bishop Christopher cancelled out everything I ever did in his country or what I may still be contributing to the fight against AIDS in Africa. Why is something so significant to a religious leader that basic values of courtesy, hospitality and listening are so lacking? The stigma of LGBT is so powerful that otherwise warm, intelligent loving people respond only from their reptilian brain.

The good people of the Church of Uganda guest house knew me and did not throw me out but continued to offer hospitality.

For more information, read the full commentary in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News:“RGOD2: LGBT, you are of infinite value!”

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