The Gospel of tolerance and freedom

By on May 25, 2016

For several years now, the world has somewhat looked at Uganda as a place where people with divergent views and opinions from the agreed mainstream opinions are most likely not to live a comfortable life. As if to offer proof of this assertion, the powers that be have in several instances clashed with people left right and center all in the name of divergent views and opinions.

The issue of human rights is an issue that has (rightly) been drummed up as an integral part of human existence. While everyone has their own view of what exactly human rights should entail, there is the general agreement that human rights are rights that are believed to belong justifiably to every person. This therefore means that no matter what the whole world thinks, as long as a certain right justifiably belongs to you, it qualifies to be your human right.

It should be that simple, right?

A few days ago, I had a lengthy conversation with a few friends about Uganda and her observance (or violation) of human rights and I came to realize that the entire human race is going about the human rights discussion the wrong way. It dawned on me that the human race is not entirely the most tolerant race after all. This whole talk of human rights is almost a smoke screen we use to convince ourselves that we are tolerant yet we actually are not. We claim to be a brilliant and clever race, and maybe we are; but we do quite well debunking our own assertion that we are way better than other animals.

We have segmented ourselves into tiny little groups, each fighting for breathing space, and each struggling to survive against all odds. It is like everyone is looking for space to take in a few breaths. Christians, Muslims with no beards, Jews, Single fathers, Feminists, Nudists, Beyonce fans, Gym enthusiasts, Naturalists, Little people, Polygamists, Dark skinned Indians, Former Alcoholics, Single mothers, there are just so many tiny segments that are all struggling for some kind of breathing space.

May 17th was International Day against Homophobia, transphobia and Biphobia. This day, in the past decade or so, has become the single most important date for LGBTI communities to mobilise on a worldwide scale. Basically it represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of the world, different decision makers, the international media, the general public, several opinion leaders as well as local authorities to the rather alarming situation faced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people and all other people who for one reason or another do not conform to the majority sexual and gender norms.

While this day probably goes unnoticed in places like Uganda, it is now celebrated in well over 130 countries, including 37 countries where same-sex acts are explicitly illegal, with more than 1600 events reported from about 1280 organizations. The sole purpose of these events is to unite millions of people around the world in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of people’s sexual orientation or their gender identity or expression.

People who have dedicated their lives to condemning the LGBT community have advanced various arguments to support their vehement opposition to the community and its activities. Some have advanced religious and faith based arguments while others have forwarded the moral argument as their basis for opposing activities of the LGBT community. Some have even constructed health based arguments to support their opposition to the LGBT community.

While it may be so that everyone has the freedom to say what they want to say (thank heavens for freedom of speech) it must also be understood that the human race is one big community that requires a lot more tolerance for freedom of speech to even mean anything. When one segment of society tries to push another against the wall, the results are never pleasant.

A case in point is the current court case (Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively) where SMUG initiated legal action in U.S. Federal District Court using the Alien Tort Statute to sue American evangelist Scott Lively for crimes against humanity for his work on the Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 or, as the Western Media decided to call it, ‘Kill the Gays bill’ was passed by the Parliament of Uganda on 20 December 2013 with life in prison being substituted for the death penalty.

People like Scott Lively and the firebrand Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa were up in arms against the LGBT community with the argument that their activities were a threat to the social and cultural construct of the Ugandan society. Around that time, among other groupings, a good number of Christian organizations opposed the bill, including the Anglican Church of Canada, Integrity Uganda, Exodus International, Accepting Evangelicals, Changing Attitude, Courage, Ekklesia, Fulcrum, Inclusive Church, and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

Between then and now, a lot has happened. While the SMUG v Scott Lively case continues, there are still lingering doubts about the extent to which the Ugandan society (and the world at large) is tolerant to issues of diversity. And for those who are not tolerant, how far are they willing to go to stand by their values. So far, a number of people have been requested by the court to appear to offer testimony in the case. Among them is our own Pastro Martin Sempa who was given a subpoena to appear before court in relation to the case.

Sempa is not party to the case; he is nothing but a witness, and as a US Citizen he is subject to the U.S. court’s jurisdiction. This subpoena basically gives SMUG the platform to question the firebrand Pastor Ssempa (under oath) about his work with Scott Lively and his role in the systematic and well orchestrated persecution of the LGBTI community in Uganda.

As is evident, Pastor Sempa has somewhat disappeared off the radar and seems to be seeking refuge somewhere far away from where the LGBT community and the court can find him.

In the past, the LGBT community hid from him. Today, Pastor Sempa hides from the LGBT community and the court. If this is a sign of things to come, it would make sense for us as human beings either to be more tolerant and respect each other’s rights or simply shut up and go live on an island somewhere – where no one can bother you as you enjoy your rights and equally you won’t be tempted to bother someone else as they enjoy their rights.

Quite naturally, the LGBT community, Human Rights campaigners and several other institutions and individuals will have their ears peeled to the ground and eyes peeled to see what happens in the Sexual Minorities Uganda v Lively case. Will Pastor Sempa show up? And if he does, will he crawl from under a rock with algae and moths all over him? Has he even lost weight or is he somewhere enjoying life in silence? Does Lively feel abandoned by his friend Sempa? Will the LGBT community invite the Pastor to their victory party in case they win the case? And will there be free wifi at the victory party?

All these are but tough questions that only time can help us answer.

In the meantime, as the different little segments of people struggle for their rights and freedoms, I will be getting together my friends (The Boyfriend’s Association of Uganda) for our first Annual General Meeting that will take place sometime soon. We shall not be suffocated. Not today; not ever!

If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity – John F. Kennedy [Commencement Address at American University, June 10 1963]”

Bernard
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter

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Baldie. Ailurophile. Social Media Junkie. Blogger. Pluviophile. Fixer. Sober Drunkard.
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