Quakers Support LGBTQ Ugandans Following Passage of Anti-Homosexuality Law

Chester (Pa.) Monthly Friends Meeting. Photo by Smallbones on Wikimedia Commons.

Some Quakers in the United States and Uganda are supporting the rights of the African nation’s LGBTQ community who face capital punishment and long prison terms under a new law. Uganda’s recently enacted anti-homosexuality law mandates the death penalty for people who engage in “aggravated homosexuality,” such as infecting same-sex partners with HIV. It also requires decades-long prison sentences for people convicted of promoting LGBTQ relationships.

President Yoweri Museveni signed the law into effect in May after parliament passed it in March. Uganda is among 32 nations in Africa that ban same-sex relationships, according to data from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association.

Homophobic murders of Ugandans inspired a Quaker leader who goes by the name Tubman to speak out against the law.

“In the Great Commission, we are supposed to shut our eyes and welcome everyone,” Tubman said in an interview.

Due to the danger of arrest, Tubman advises LGBTQ people in Uganda to avoid public celebrations, such as pride parades. He suggests they focus instead on alleviating the poverty that many LGBTQ people face. The leadership of the Ugandan LGBTQ community does not know who is a spy, so they are very reticent about accepting help, according to Tubman.

“The point is to be alive,” Tubman said.

Chester (Pa.) Meeting adopted a minute of support for LGBTQ Ugandans. The meeting endorsed the minute without any division, according to clerk Yelena Forrester.

“We read it, and we united,” Forrester said.

Karl Malachut of Evanston, Ill., a regular attender at Chester Meeting, proposed the minute. Malachut and other allies have convened care meetings with members of the Talented Youth Community Fellowship, a Ugandan LGBTQ ministry led by transgender pastor Maama Annet.

Alex, whose real name is not used out of safety concerns, a Talented Youth Community Fellowship member, spoke with Friends Journal recently. If an acquaintance even guesses someone is gay, they can report the person to the police, according to Alex. Without arrestees’ consent, officers perform anal examinations to determine whether defendants have had homosexual sex. Alex was arrested and released on bond. In the aftermath of the arrest, they felt uplifted by the care meetings.

Alex believes God has a solution to all the tribulations LGBTQ people are facing in Uganda. They noted that people in Jesus’s own country hated him, just as many Ugandans hate LGBTQ folks. Alex believes that Christians must undergo tests of faith and that God has a plan for believers’ futures.

“The Bible tells us that we just should live by faith,” Alex said.

Annet also spoke with Friends Journal recently, noting that her ministry cannot gather for fear of being charged with promoting homosexuality, an accusation that can lead to 20 years in jail.

Annet was arrested and taken to an unknown place where she was sexually assaulted. She was released after paying a bribe to prison staff. Annet considers transgender people to be “blessed not cursed.”

Annet expressed determination to publicize the repression LGBTQ people face in Uganda: “If we keep quiet, no one will know what is taking place.”

(UPDATE: Reuters reports that on August 18, Ugandan prosecutors filed the first charge of “aggravated homosexuality” against a defendant since the passage of this legislation in May.)

Sharlee DiMenichi

Sharlee DiMenichi is a staff writer for Friends Journal. Contact: sharlee@friendsjournal.org.