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Ugandan LGBT People Hope Pope Will Speak Up for Them

Ugandan LGBT People Hope Pope Will Speak Up for Them


LGBT people across Uganda are calling on Pope Francis to address the country's rampant homophobia and to call for tolerance and acceptance.

As Pope Francis prepares for his first trip to Africa, persecuted LGBT people say they pray he will speak up on their behalf. The Pope will visit Kenya, Uganda, and the war-torn Central African Republic this week.

While activists hope the Pope will address the violent attacks against gays and lesbians and call for increased tolerance, local religious leaders expect he will avoid the subject entirely.

"I doubt that Pope Francis will talk about homosexuals," Archbishop John Baptist Odama, who heads the local conference of Catholic bishops, told the Associated Press. "There is a clear teaching of the church on homosexuality. Because the aim of it is not to promote life but to act against it, those with that tendency are called to abstinence."

"We want a positon that is very clear from the Vatican that says, 'Do not discriminate, do not harm homosexuals,' a message of tolerance," prominent gay activist Frank Mugisha said.

Pope Francis has made several overtures to connect with gay and lesbian Catholics who feel rejected by a church that continues to deem their relationships inherently sinful. In 2013, he described his position on gay priests as "Who am I to judge?" The Vatican has refused to say whether or not he will address LGBT rights during the trip.

"I see this particular pope as more progressive but I wouldn't call him an ally like (President) Obama," Mugisha commented. "I would like to see his position very clearly because what he said came as a by-the-way when he said he can't judge."

"Most important of all, he should influence the church to accept us because the church says being gay is wrong," another activist who only gave his name as Abdul told Reuters. "This continuous discrimination has caused a lot of trauma, depression and anxiety and has driven us away from the church."

Uganda has been at the center of anti-LGBT policies influenced by evangelical Christians. In 2013, Ugandan lawmakers passed a law that sentenced gay people to life in prison or death. After international outcry by human rights activists, the law was overturned on procedural grounds. This summer, a synod on the family was marked by deep divisions among church leaders from different continents: the bishops from Africa were more ardently opposed to acceptance of gays and lesbians than those from North America.

"I would like the Pope to tell fellow believers that we are human beings like them, they worship the same god that we worship," another activist, Hector, who identifies as a trans-woman told Reuters. "The Pope's coming is going to give us an opportunity to come out and tell our stories."

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