London’s Catholic LGBT Ministry Rallies Around Ugandan Exile

In what is a strong display of Catholic advocacy for the human rights of gay people, the members of LGBT Catholics Westminster have rallied around a gay Ugandan who worships with them to prevent him from being deported to his native land where homosexuality is criminalized.

LGBT Catholics Westminster embers at London Pride.

London’s Tablet reported that the man “faces a very high risk of being killed if he is forced to return to the place of his birth.”  LGBT Catholics Westminster is the official diocesan pastoral ministry in London, approved by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Westminster Diocese.

The Tablet provided background about the man at the center of this situation:

“Godfrey Kawalya, a gay Ugandan refugee, LGBT campaigner and a member of LGBT Catholics Westminster, has been living in Britain since 2002. In Uganda, where same sex acts are illegal and punishable by life imprisonment, he says he was expelled from secondary school, sacked from his job and rejected by his family for being gay. He was also an active member of the political opposition to the current president, Yoweri Museveni.

“After he fled from Kampala to rebel-held territories in Northern Uganda, Kawalya said he was attacked and robbed, and a friend who sheltered him was killed. He escaped to Kenya with the help of some nuns and eventually made his way to England.

“In August 2015 the Home Office refused his claim for asylum on the grounds that they did not believe he was gay and because he didn’t disclose his sexuality when he first arrived. ‘I was fearful, it wasn’t easy. I don’t know why they don’t believe me’, Mr Kawalya told The Tablet.

“Several appeals have failed and Mr Kawalya has one final chance to appeal by supplying new evidence to support his case by 17 May.”

LGBT Catholics Westminster has organized a petition for UK citizens to sign, asking the British government to grant Kawalya asylum.  Several Catholic leaders have already signed the petition, including  Vincent Manning, chair of Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support, Ged Clapson, Jesuit Communications Officer in Britain, and Fr. Tony Nye, a pastor at Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair, London, which hosts the LGBT Catholics Westminster organization.

Martin Pendergast, a leader in the LGBT Catholics group said of Kawalya’s case that “even if he were not (gay), the law takes the view that refugees who are in danger of death or persecution because they are perceived to be gay in their home country must be granted asylum.”

For more information about LGBT Catholics Westminster or to learn how to sign the petition if you are a UK citizen, visit www.lgbtcatholicswestminster.org or email lgbtcatholicswesminster@gmail.com.

When people speak about appropriate Catholic pastoral ministry for LGBT people, I can think of no better example than this story of Catholics using church teaching condemning discrimination against LGBT people to help save a person’s life.

In less than two weeks, Frank Mugisha, the head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the leading LGBT advocacy organization in that country, will be speaking at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, is scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. For more information and to register, visit www.Symposium2017.org.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 19, 2017

 

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2 thoughts on “London’s Catholic LGBT Ministry Rallies Around Ugandan Exile

  1. Stephen Lovatt April 19, 2017 / 10:37 am

    Update on plight of LGBT refugees in Kenya, posted on behalf of Naithan Banks.

    The meeting started at round 09:00 with refugees, representatives of local authorities and partners of the UNHCR including HIAS, DRC, REFUGEE POINT, and CVT. The agenda was to explain and enlighten us about their services with the opportunity for refugees to ask a few questions.

    A lot of questions were asked of DRC, HIAS and CVT. The impression I gathered from the meeting and discussion was that we are being fooled by the UNHCR and it’s implementing partners. They all refer us to each other, but we obtain no help from any of them. They say we should work and register with DRC to get business grants and loans, but DRC is just a means of fooling us, as this year DRC has not given a single grant to anyone. Even so, we are always told to seek help from DRC, which in reality doesn’t have any funds this year. Not even the staff of DRC are being paid well this year!

    We have always had problems with HIAS case workers, who often fail to help us, while mouthing empty words of comfort. They claim to work according to the vulnerability of an individual, but very many refugees and asylum seekers are sick with serious diseases, have no food and have no accommodation housing: so I don’t know what is considered when choosing who is vulnerable and who is not. Surely, many who are in a critical condition have obtained no help!

    We prostitute ourselves with foreigners simply because we can’t sleep rough on the streets of Nairobi as its so risky. We end up associating with bad people who have malign intentions for us. Some just want to exploit us for sex. A lot of refugees become infected with STDs because they are struggling to survive. We can’t even report threats we receive to the police, since the police themselves are antagonistic towards us and regularly intimidate us and even extort money from us with menaces, false imprisonment or actual violence. The number of sick refugees increases daily and they are not helped because medical services are inadequate and there is no clear access to emergency care.

    Hester Moore, the UNHCR officer with personal responsibility for LGBTI people in Nairobi attended the meeting. It is so hard to meet her – or even schedule an appointment with her! – at UNHCR. When we saw her, we felt relieved and thought that our problems might be properly addressed. She listened to all our questions and concerns through the whole meeting and when she was given the opportunity to talk to us I paid careful attention to what she said.

    I was very disappointed to hear what she told us. She said that she had to tell us the bitter truth. She was right to do that, but it means that we lost any hope of our problems being solved and our complaints being addressed. Instead, we were just hurt by her words, and we wished she had not told us what she did. She emphasized that new arrivals in Kenya (I mean those from July last year, onwards) they will never get any financial assistance, no matter how vulnerable they are. She also emphasized that there will be no mercy for any refugees who seek help and attention from UNHCR by sleeping outside the UNHCR offices. She discounted the fact that we do not camp outside the UNHCR offices for favours, or out of wilfulness, but because our situation is truly desperate. When you have nowhere else to sleep you seek shelter at your home. The closest we now have to a home is the UNHCR. The police force and general social context of Kenya is so dangerous for us, so we seek out the relative safety of the UNHCR.

    She also emphasized that any refugee who fails to establish themselves in Nairobi must obtain a movement pass and agree to be taken to the Kakuma camp. Initially, we were encouraged to set ourselves up in the urban community, but subsequently we have been abandoned to our own devices. We often hear from our fellow LGBTIQ refugees in the Kakuma camp about the terrible conditions there: how they are under serious threats from other refugees who are not LGBTIQ. They also suffer from other issues, such as inadequate medical services, poor nutrition, poor sanitation, and violence and intimidation from authorities. They want to leave and get back into the urban community, but they can’t manage it.

    Hester Moore did not reassure us about the effect of the coming elections, which look to be so risky for us refugees – especially LGBTIQ refugees. The UNHCR has no safety plan for us. This is very important when when you look back at what happened in 2007. A lot of homosexual men were raped, kidnapped and murdered by Kenyan nationals in post election violence.
    All in all we have lost hope in our present home-from-home, where we thought we had found safety. We are so insecure and desperate. We don’t know what to do next. We would be very grateful and full of joy to receive any relief to the problems that we face here in Nairobi. Thank you for any help you can give us.

    MY GOD BLESS YOU

    Naithan Bank’s

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