Gospel of Intolerance: The filmmaker Roger Ross Williams reveals how money donated by American evangelicals helps to finance a violent anti-gay movement in Uganda; though the Video offering may not be without controversy.
By Melanie Nathan January 23, 2013.
ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS was raised in Pennsylvania, and grew up in the black church. He exposes in a short documentary OPED the U.S. Evangelical mission in Uganda – to persecute gays. He has published a Video OP-ED in the New York Times dated, January 22, 2013, reflecting on the persecution of LGBT Ugandans American as impacted by the American Evangelicals. This is a must be told story, especially highlighted by the recent lawsuit in the U.S., brought by Ugandans against Scot Lively, the U.S. Pastor accused of conspiring to cause the persecution of LGBT Ugandans.
” I went to church every Sunday and sang in the choir. But for all that the church gave me — for all that it represented belonging, love and community — it also shut its doors to me as a gay person. That experience left me with the lifelong desire to explore the power of religion to transform lives or destroy them. I became interested in Uganda, an intensely religious country that attracts many American missionaries and much funding from United States faith-based organizations. The American evangelical movement in Africa does valuable work in helping the poor. But as you’ll see in this Op-Doc video, some of their efforts and money feed a dangerous ideology that seeks to demonize L.G.B.T. people and intensifies religious rhetoric until it results in violence. It is important for American congregations to hold their churches accountable for what their money does in Africa.”
The much watch video, which is drawing some criticism from Ugandan Gays In Uganda, can be seen by linking to the NY Times below:_
This video is part of a series produced by independent filmmakers who have received major support from the Ford Foundation and additional support from the nonprofit Sundance Institute.
A Ugandan Gay man, Richard Ssebaggala has written a BLOG stating that this film is an exaggeration of the violence:
“Martin Ssempa and his homophobic friends are in cahoots with American evangelicals, mostly for money. Ssempa, however, has a following of perhaps 2o0 die-hard souls, in a country of 34 million. For any writer to use this man as a representative of “violent” Uganda is, frankly, offensive. And I am saying this as a gay man who lives in Uganda, not some fly-by-night film maker who makes a whistle-stop tour and then reaches the conclusions he was looking to reach in the first place.
Mr. Roger Ross Williams, I feel more threatened by your scare-mongering hyperbole, which might push the Ugandans who already know I am gay to turn against me because they may finally decide to live up to the rash claims you are making against them. It is half-baked, hastily scrambled stories like yours that will likely make Ugandans indignant enough to act on their antipathy towards homosexuality – antipathy they are entitled to but which they are not acting upon in the ruinous way your video tries to claim they are.
And, no, I am not on the payroll of the government of Uganda. I am a gay Ugandan who sees this kind of wild, baseless, self-serving, ‘cry wolf’ journalism as more harmful than helpful to our cause and case in Uganda.
I don’t know of any gay violence in Uganda that is unique to Uganda alone. I hear of more frequent anti-gay horror stories coming out of South Africa and, dare one say it, the USA. I know of Ugandan politicians and evangelical barracudas trying to make a living by inciting gay hatred, but I don’t know of any mass action by Ugandans against gays. No one I know of has ever illustrated that that sort of thing is happening – yet.”
While reading the Gay Man’s BLOG, Sebaspace, by Richard Ssebaggala, some of what he says may well be true. However in all fairness, while there may not be a mass attack directed at GAYS “yet,” (his words) the ominous and pending homophobic legislation known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will indeed lend itself to such. In my western advocacy against the Bill, I caution critics of the film to not derogate from the individual suffering that is indeed ever present in Uganda against gays and lesbians and transgender Ugandans. I have received many e-mails myself during my years of writing on the topic, where Ugandans all describe similar persecution and torture at the hands of family, community and police. Many have fled and obtained asylum in foreign countries such as the U.S., Sweden, the U.K. , South Africa, Denmark, Netherlands and France. I have stories from at least 3 individuals in each such country and many more from others still in Uganda, some of whom are currently living in hiding.
The critic of the film, Sebaspace also forgets the trauma associated with outing of 100 Gays in the Ugandan Rolling Stone tabloid , together with the hangman noose, and the words “HANG THEM!”
What Sebaspace also fails to note is the fact his own LGBT community in Uganda, under the coalition SMUG has brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Pastor, Scott Lively, under the Alien Tort Act, asserting actual harm and persecution to the Ugandan gays. Evidence of this will be brought into the U.S. Courts when the case is heard. Is Sebaspace accusing SMUG of lying? Of Exaggerating its claims? Or is Sebapsace willing to admit that while there indeed no mass attack of LGBT Ugandans, many have been persecuted and directly hurt as a direct result of Lively’s and other Evangelicals’ actions.
Sebaspace , who may as a gay man enjoy personal comfort, he also fails to note is that the U.S. State department has a record of such persecution, through on the ground information.
Sebaspace may be correct to jab at so called fly by night filmmakers, for hyperbole, to some extent, but the facts cannot be ignored.
Furthermore, in reading Sebaspace, we must take into account the qualities that I have noticed amongst LGBT people in Uganda – (and here is where he can be understood in his criticism of the film) – an optimism that is to be admired, a courage and a desire to reflect the community and country they love positively, with a measure of denial. The fear of backlash and also the fact that not all gay Ugandans share the same experience must be considered. Many have been hurt as a direct result of the American Evangelical deeds and words that have occurred in Uganda. That is a fact!