African Voices for Equality: Reverend Christopher Senyonjo
By Dawes Cooke
Recently, Africa has become a hotbed for homophobic legislation, putting LGBT people and allies at great risk. But a growing number of prominent Africans are breathing fresh air into the debate that’s been stifled by personal judgments, narrow dogma, and hubris. Human Rights First’s factsheet, “African Voices for Equality,” highlights brave men and women who are taking a stand in countries where egregious intolerance and violence against LGBT people and allies persists.
In his 24 years as Bishop of the Diocese of West Buganda, Christopher Senyonjo was a voice of reason amidst the clamorous call for the purge of LGBT people from Uganda.
Despite being unjustly stripped of his official duties by the leaders of Uganda’s Anglican Church, he continues to lead services and offer counseling for LGBT people and their supporters from his small office in Kampala. Church leaders have told him that he will continue to be alienated from the church until he recants his views on homosexuality, but he refuses to do so. Misguided church leaders, he believes, view homosexuality as a disease that needs to be cured, while his counseling sessions have taught him that a person’s sexual identity is intrinsic and impossible to change.
Reverend Senyonjo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by those who want to silence Uganda’s LGBT community. When a list of 200 prominent homosexuals was published in a Ugandan newspaper leading to widespread targeting of LGBT people, his name was included as a homosexual “supporter.” Additionally, since the new anti-homosexuality law contains a provision punishing allies of the LGBT community, he risks prosecution and imprisonment with every counseling session he offers.
Rev. Senyonjo remains one of the few sources of support for the LGBT community in a country that legitimizes homophobia and puts huge amounts of legal and societal pressure on them to stay hidden. For his incredible courage and decency, Human Rights First salutes him.