18 December, 2012
Pastor Blaisious Ruguri
President, East-Central Africa Division
Pastor Blaisious Ruguri,
I am writing to you after hearing of your support for the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” that has been proposed in the Ugandan Parliament by MP David Bahati. Recently, I wrote to Ugandan Parliament Speaker Kadaga and to President Museveni to express my grave concern.
This bill would legalize the persecution — in some cases death – of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) in Uganda. Despite what opinions people in Uganda may have regarding human sexuality, this proposed legislation is unacceptable as it is a violation of human rights. This proposed legislation is a violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Despite this proposed legislation violating fundamental human rights, it is contrary to the character of Jesus Christ. One thing I know is that God does not discriminate among members of our family. In fact, we are all one in Christ, part of a very diverse family. God calls us to love one another, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That includes loving our gay neighbors.
For centuries the world has seen hatred and intolerance. We too often fear the “other”, fearing the “stranger in our midst”. Unfortunately, we have seen the result of hatred and intolerance demonstrated in Africa as recently as 1994 during the terrible genocide that occurred in Rwanda.
Up to a million people are said to have been killed in a series of massacres by Hutu extremist militias against Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. Seventh-day Adventist pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son (Doctor Gerard Ntakirutimana) actively participated in the mass slaughter in western Rwanda. Before the slaughter they were sent a letter by several Tutsi who begged them for help. Mr. Ntakirutimana’s response was that the unarmed men, women and children should prepare for death. Soon after, Hutu militias attacked – accompanied by the pastor and his son. Of the hundreds who had sought shelter, only a few survived.
The reason I remind you of this tragic history is because it reminds us of what can result from the intolerance and hatred of a minority group. The world was watching Rwanda almost twenty years ago, and the world is watching Uganda today.
I have a special place in my heart for Uganda as I heard many stories about that country from my adopted grandparents – Robert and Grace Wieland. They spent many years as missionaries in Kenya and Uganda. They learned to speak the language in both countries. Growing up they told me stories about the immense beauty of both Kenya and Uganda with its flora and fauna. More importantly, I heard of the beauty in the hearts of Uganda’s people. As Elder Wieland would preach about Christ’s agape, he would see tears rolling down the faces of many as he would speak to them in Luganda.
This principle of agape transcends all religions and cultures. It costs far less than hatred. And it works miracles in saving individuals and nations from ruinous violence.
As a leader in the church and as a human being, I implore you to withdraw your support of this proposed legislation. It is contrary to the character of Jesus Christ, who had an impetus toward compassion, justice and mercy. It is contrary to the teachings and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist church. And it is a violation of our basic and fundamental human rights.
Dear Elder Wilson and Elder Caldwell:
East-Central African Division President Pr. Blasious Ruguri recently made the following statement against Ugandan homosexuals at a public meeting at Mbarara SDA Church, Southwestern Uganda Field:
“Our stand is ‘zero tolerance’ to this vice and to western influence on this crucial issue because God says no to it. We are together with the President and the Speaker and we fully support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I call upon all religious ministers, all Ugandans, and all Africans to say no to Homosexuality. Let us stand for our sovereignty as Ugandans and as God fearing people even [though] the heavens fall.”1
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International is appalled by the pastor’s use of Ellen White to appeal to common anti-gay and xenophobic sentiment, especially because of the hostile climate Ugandan politicians and allied church leaders have been stoking across the country. This fall, Ugandan lawmakers reintroduced the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” first proposed in 2009. This law uses the force of the state to undermine the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Ugandans, those “suspected” of being as LGBT, their family members, and any educators thought to be “promoting” the equality of LGBT people.
We’re disappointed that the church’s discussion of compassion at Annual Council this October did not constrain the division leader as he spoke to the Mbarara congregation, regional politicians, and members of parliament. Pr. Ruguri attended Annual Council this year and so heard the church accepting its Christ-given responsibility to offer “caring ministry and words of solace” because “all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are loved by God.”2
Pr. Ruguri is also a board member of the church’s International Religious Liberty Association, but his recent statement does not express care for the many SDA members in Uganda and Africa who aren’t heterosexual or respect for their religious liberty or human rights. Through Pr. Ruguri’s statements and the Adventist church’s continued membership in the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, the church is now justifying the prosecution, imprisonment, and potential execution of Ugandan LGBT people and their families.
As Adventists, and regardless of the church’s statements on human sexuality, we believe that the Seventh-day Adventist church should never stand for the violation of basic human rights. The recent End It Now campaign is just the latest example of our church’s track record of standing against violence and abuse. Because of that track record, we do not accept that one of the church’s top-ranking leaders can support legalized violence against a minority group or use the pulpits and authority of the worldwide church to do so.
On its own website, the church affirms the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its firm stand “for human dignity, liberty, equality, and non-discrimination of minorities.”3 The Seventh- day Adventist church has an obligation to strongly and clearly state that it does not support the rhetoric or lobbying of anyone who has promoted putting the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of members, in jeopardy.
Our members in Uganda and other parts of the world now look to you to respond in a Christ-like way to these threats to their life, liberty, and security of person, given Pr. Ruguri’s recent statements in the church’s name.
Yolanda Elliott, President
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International
Just awful, I have no words, this is not of God!