THE Archbishop of Canterbury has described the “brutal murder” of David Kato, a Christian Ugandan gay-rights activist, last week, as “profoundly shocking”.
Mr Kato, advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), whom Human Rights Watch (HRW) called “a leading voice in the fight against the [country’s] Anti-Homosexuality Bill”, was found dead at his home on Wednesday of last week. The executive director of SMUG, Frank Mugisha, told the BBC that Mr Kato “was killed by someone who came in his house with a hammer”.
On 3 January, Mr Kato was awarded damages by the High Court after he was one of 100 gay Ugandans featured in the magazine Rolling Stone — which has no connection to the American music magazine of the same name — under the headline “Hang them”.
Dr Williams, in a statement issued from the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin last Friday, said that Mr Kato “lived under the threat of violence and death. No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others.”
Dr Williams said that the killing of Mr Kato provided “a moment to take very serious stock and to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities”.
Speaking at a press conference after the Primates’ Meeting, on Sunday, Dr Williams said that Mr Kato’s murder “illustrates the fact that words have results...Whenever people use any kind of language that dehumanises or demeans such persons [as homosexuals], we have to think these are the possible consequences.”
Dr Williams noted that the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, was “a signatory, along with all the other Primates to . . . statements . . . deploring and condemning all violence and demeaning language about homosexual persons”.
When contacted, the Archbishop of York’s office said that Dr Sentamu would not be commenting on the murder of Mr Kato, and referred to Dr Williams’s statement.
Preaching at a sung eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on Sunday, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, said that Mr Kato’s death “deprives his people of a significant and effective voice”. She prayed “that the world may learn from his gentle and quiet witness, and begin to receive a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone”.
The chief executive of the Les-bian and Gay Christian Movement, the Revd Sharon Ferguson, said that it was “important to remember that David [Kato] himself was a deeply committed Christian, as are many of the LGBT people with whom he worked, and for whom he gave his life”.
The director of the Refugee Law Project at Makare University in Kampala, a partner of Christian Aid, Dr Chris Dolan, who chairs the Civil Society Coalition, which supported Mr Kato’s case against Rolling Stone, said that it was “disingenuous” to claim, as some had, that Mr Kato’s murder was the result of a robbery and not a hate crime. He said that there was “a climate of hate” against gay people in Uganda.
Dr Dolan said that the murder had “drawn a lot of international attention and solidarity”, most notably from President Obama, who praised Mr Kato as “a power-ful advocate for fairness and freedom” and urged the Ugandan government to investigate the killing.
Dr Dolan said that the solidarity shown by international politicians was “really important”, because the Ugandan government “do take notice of international opinion, to a degree”.
Mr Kato’s funeral, which took place last Friday, was “turned into an anti-gay rally”, a statement by Changing Attitude Ireland said, based on an eyewitness account of the ceremony by Bishop Christopher Senyonjo.
The account said that the Church of Uganda “sent no priest, no bishop, but a lay reader to conduct the service”. The Reader, it said, made “inappropriate remarks condemning homosexuality quite graphically and stating the Church of Uganda’s position. . . The crowd began to cheer him on.
“The anger and frustration of the LGBT community and its straight allies finally erupted when a young lesbian, who worked with David [Kato]at SMUG . . . seized the mic, and the lay reader’s diatribe against LGBT people was finally replaced by the voices of those whom David fought and died for.”