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Many Ugandan LGBTQ refugees at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya are seeking safety after escaping homophobic attacks in Uganda. Refugees demonstrate at the UNHCR refugee camp in northwest Kenya on Nov. 23, 2022. (RNS photo/Tonny Onyulo)

KAMPALA, Uganda (RNS) — Gilbert Lubega, a staunch Catholic, recently sat in his white plastic chair at his home in Wakiso, a suburb of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

He scrolled through his phone and showed Religion News Service two photos of a young gay female couple kissing and another one of a male gay couple kissing during their wedding ceremony.

“I hope you have seen those disturbing photos,” he said, scratching his short hair. “These images make me think the world is coming to an end. They are things you can’t imagine happening, and people blindly support them.”

The 55-year-old man, who owns a food kiosk in Wakiso, blamed the West for invading his culture and destroying its values. He believes foreign governments are sponsoring LGBTQ people and their activities in the country.

“The people who call themselves LGBTQ activists are now recruiting many people, including our children,” said the father of six. “They don’t know what they are doing, but they are destroying people’s lives by engaging them in unethical activities. The West want to make our country Sodom and Gomorrah, and we won’t accept it.”

Lubega’s views are shared widely among Ugandans who want the government to ban LGBTQ rights groups completely. Most Ugandan Catholics oppose Pope Francis’ recent move to allow priests to administer blessings to same-sex couples. The Catholic bishops in Africa and Madagascar stated earlier this month that they refused to follow Francis’ declaration.

The Catholic bishops in Africa and Madagascar stated earlier this month that they refused to follow Francis’ declaration.

The majority-Christian East African country has a law in place that was signed last year in May by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, calling for life imprisonment for anyone convicted of same-sex activity. The law also calls for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which involves cases of same-sex relations involving people who are HIV positive, children and other vulnerable people.

Many LGBTQ Ugandans have since fled to neighboring countries to escape homophobia.

Religious leaders, government officials and some rights group activists have blamed the West for promoting LGBTQ acceptance in the country, saying the activities have recently increased with pro-gay activists targeting school-going children. Most church leaders and politicians have opined that although political and military colonialism have receded in recent decades, a new form of colonialism through cultural impositions has invaded the country.

The Western world has for years called on African governments to give LGBTQ people equal rights by decriminalizing same-sex sexual acts and protecting their rights.

In June last year, for example, the United States imposed visa restrictions on dozens of Uganda officials in response to the country’s anti-gay laws.

“As Africans, we should be very careful and not accept everything white people tell us,” warned catechist Charles Kiwuwa from the Archdiocese of Tororo in the eastern region of Uganda during an interview with RNS. “They have told us that polygamy is a sin because they know most Africans embrace it and that homosexuality is righteousness because we disagree.”

The Catholic leaders have begun a countrywide campaign to fight “agents of homosexuality” in the country who they believe are being supported by foreign governments to spread LGBTQ activism in schools and other institutions.

The Catholic leaders have begun a countrywide campaign to fight “agents of homosexuality” in the country who they believe are being supported by foreign governments to spread LGBTQ activism in schools and other institutions. The church leaders have expressed concern over increasing cases of same-sex attraction among the youth and school-going children, accusing these agents of luring school children with money and other luxurious gifts to recruit them.

“As a church, we have decided to fight homosexuality to save our children and the country from collapsing because the Bible teaches us that homosexuality is evil, as read in Genesis Chapters 18 and 19,” Fr. Richard Nyombi told RNS.

Nyombi, the parish priest of Mapeera Nabulagala in Kampala, said religious leaders had fought same-sex attraction from time immemorial, both in the Bible and today, and they are unwilling to allow foreign culture to influence the country.

“We are preaching against homosexuality during Mass and other gatherings to help our brothers and sisters not fall prey to the vice and for those who have already been lured into the practice to repent and follow God’s way,” he said.

Church leaders have been meeting with youth, parents, children, elders and government officers in an effort to curb the spread of “immoral” behavior among people, especially children. The leaders have also been advising parents during Masses and other gatherings to warn their children against same-sex attraction and to urge them to be content with what their parents have given them, so they are not tempted by money.

“We have started to sensitize children in schools and homes against the vice of homosexuality,” said the Rev. Fr. Francis Xavier Kikomeko.

“We have started to sensitize children in schools and homes against the vice of homosexuality,” said the Rev. Fr. Francis Xavier Kikomeko, the parish priest of Kisubi in Kampala, who also said they offer weekly workshops.

“We want to make children and parents aware that homosexuality is a sin, and pro-gay activists should never influence them to join LGTBQ groups because it’s evil and not accepted in the Bible.”

The bishop of Lira Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Sanctus Lino Wanok, has launched a campaign against all forms of LGBTQ identity or activism in northern Uganda, calling LGBTQ advocates to repent and seek God’s blessings.

“It’s shameful to see some people promoting sin and luring people to join in committing sin,” Bishop Wanok told RNS, noting that the church would spread the message throughout the country to ensure people follow God’s way. “People must not accept homosexuality because it’s a mockery of God, our creator.”

“We live in fear because we cannot identify as gay, lesbian or transgender,” said one member of the LGBTQ community. 

The Ugandan army has also joined the battle against LGBTQ people, saying they will not accept a new form of colonialism through cultural impositions.

“We urge our service providers, including health facilities, against treating homosexuals,” Maj. Gen. Francis Takirwa told residents last November while dedicating a health facility in western Uganda.

Meanwhile, one Catholic LGBTQ activist praised Francis’ declaration permitting priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples. However, he said the approval by the Holy Father has prompted the government and citizens to increase attacks on their members.

He revealed that families have disowned LGBTQ members, churches have given strict instructions not to allow them in the church’s compounds, landlords have thrown them out of their houses and some have lost jobs.

“We live in fear because we cannot identify as gay, lesbian or transgender,” he said, asking RNS not to reveal his name. “Pope Francis should give clear instructions to bishops and priests to allow LGBTQ members to worship God and nourish their spirits.”

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