- East Africa
- Justice - Religion - Sexuality
Anti-gay propaganda splits Uganda priests and churches
Christianity in Uganda has been hit by anti-gay propaganda which has led to divisions amongst followers as many Christians in the country express surprise at the increasing number of religious leaders using homosexual allegations to discredit their fellow pastors.
Some priests and pastors have waged wars against their counterparts claiming that they are gays and not fit to be church leaders. The most hit are Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical church leaders.
"There is a group of priests who claim to be anti-gays and they have ended up alleging that some priests are gays. They have named the priests and called on members of the public to shun them" says retired Angalican bishop, Amos Okello. He believes that those who accuse others of being gays do not have substantial evidence to incriminate them.
Not only religious entities have sounded alarm bells over the accusations. "There seems to be malice among those priests and pastors who accuse others that thy are gays. We have received reports that some malicious pastors frame cases of homosexuality against their fellow pastors who are more wealthy and popular than them. They are simply enviuos," Dan Mbasa, a police officer who has been handling cases of homosexuality noted.
The homosexual accusations at the core of religious circles in the East African nation have contributed to divisions within the Christian community. Whilst some Ugandans have shown support for anti-gay priests, others have openly vowed support for the alleged gay priests or pastors.
One of the priests accused of being gay is pastor Robert Kayanja of Namirembe Miracle centre in Kampala. He is one of the most successful pastors in the country.
"I am sure he is hated by fellow pastors because he is with a big following and one of the best churches in the country," says Nelly Ajambo, one of his followers.
A court hearing was held on February 2nd, 2011, following a defamation law suit brought against his accusers by pastor Robert Kayanja. During the court session, prosecution alleged that the priests namely Solomon Male, Michael Kyazze, Robert Kayiraand, David Mukalazi, and others still at large, "conspired to cause injury to personality and reputation of pastor Kayanja alleging that he was engaged in homosexuality".
During the hearing of the case, the courtroom was fully packed with Christians supporting the two groups, according to Jane Namba, a court clerk.
After the magistrate handling the case adjourned the hearing of the case to February 16th 2011, the two groups walked out and started exchanging blows a few meters away from the court premises.
"We came in to stop the fight of Christians from the two camps. One of the groups fighting claimed that their priests were being framed by malicious priests. The others supported the ones who pointed out the priests they claim to be gays."
Some Christians are buffled by the wars between pastors. "I am confused by the stories saying that some of our priests are gays", said 59 year old Simon Kasumali, a catechist in St Andrew church in eastern Uganda. "It is difficult to confirm whether the accusations are true. I personally do not believe in them. Our priests are being framed" he added.
But 45 yr old businessman, Andrew Nyeko thinks otherwise. He said: "I am not surprised about the accusations. Some of the churches in the country are managed by money hungry and amoral people. They can do anything evil."
One of the organizations claiming to be fighting against alleged gay religious leaders is the National Coalition against Homosexuality and Sex Abuse in Uganda. It is led by reverend Solomon Male who is also head a group of priests under an umbrella organization called Arising for Christ. Male is among the 5 priests sued by pastor Kayanja.
While in court one of the accused, pastor Martin Ssempa, a notorious anti-gay campaigner stood in the dock in his cassock. After the adjournment of court the accused priests sung rhymes outside the court where Male told the press that "the police is against us. It has changed statements of the witnesses. It seems they are paid money by the gay priests so that they suffocate the cases ..."
Nonetheless, Male said that they believe they will win the case and denied allegations that they are against Kayanja and the other alleged gay priests because they are wealthy. "We are not malicious. We want a moral transformation in the church. We are out to defend young men sodomized by the gay priests" he said.
But Pastor Kayanja who took the priests to court for defamation insists that the priests are malicious and behaving in unChristian manner. He said that some priests and Christians are using homosexuality to witch-hunt those they regard as either their rivals or enemies.
On the cause of accusations Kayanja said, "I think the agenda is big. Someone is using them for his own interest. What they did to me is an extreme way of being anti-person."
Kayanja believes that the five priests could be sponsored by people who want to bring him down. "They have used a lot of money to fight me and my friends. They are likely to be connected to the anti-gay American priests who visited Uganda a few years ago. The Americans could be among those sponsoring them."
Kayanja, whose church is one of the biggest in Kampala with modern furniture, music equipment and public address system is regarded by most Ugandans as being among the wealthiest priests in the country.
He denied being gay. "I have never been a homosexual, and I will never be one. Homosexuality allegations are being used to witch-hunt me by my rivals."
Lying to court
The events in court turned dramatic when the young men who at first were paraded by anti gay priests as their key witnesses turned against them and told court that they were paid to lie to court and the public."
During the court session Robinson Matovu, 29, told court that he framed pastor Kayanja because he wanted money promised to him by the anti-gay priests led by Solomon Male who gave him a false identity to accuse Pastor Kayanja of sodomy.
Robinson Matovu told court that Male named him Samson Mukisa and instructed him to fabricate a story that Kayanja sodomized him. "They told me that they would pay me 56 million shillings, (equivalent of 24,300 US dollars) if I said Kayanja sodomized me", he said.
Second witness, Robert Musazi also told court that Male instructed him to accuse Kayanja of sodomy and made him sign a false affidavit incriminating Kayanaja.
Before suing the priests, several other priests of all denominations had been incriminated of being gays in different parts of the country.
Some religious leaders in Uganda say they are worried about the big numbers of Christians turning gay and turning their backs to the church. Anglican bishop, Elly Ruzinda, on his part has decried homosexuality for tearing apart Christianity in the country and causing decline in the number of believers.
"The fact that there are some Christians in the country being converted to homosexuality definitely affects our churches. There is a decline in numbers of Christians and even the quality of Christianity is affected," Bishop Ruzinda said during an interview.
Conversely, Right Reverend Stacy Saul, from the US, has been quoted as saying that the “Bible does not touch on homosexuality nearly as much as we think it does”, whilst Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian living in the UK, believes that too many African Christians focus entirely on condemning homosexual practice and ignore their commitment...
The subject of homosexuality has become a highly political topic in Uganda. After several months of political debates on an anti-gay bill that touted the death penalty for homosexuality, pastor Ssempa, one of the accused, showed a video to over 100 Christians in a church in Kampala in an attempt to garner more public support for his anti-gay movement. But his attempt was condemned when a cross section of Christians in Uganda protested against the showing of pornography in churches.