Say No To Religious Homophobia.

East Africa Visual Artists-EAVA held a religious inclusivity workshop in Kampala under the theme “I Am Free In Faith, “Say No To Religious Based Homophobia” with support from Arcus LGBTI+. The event which attracted 35 LGBTQ affirming religious leaders and human rights defenders aimed at imparting participants with advocacy skills that will empower them to promote inclusion of queer persons of all faith in places of worship through their given platforms.

“We want to deliberate on how religious leaders can appreciate diversity and be advocates of human rights for all within their congregations as we fellowship together. We also want to tell people that it’s okay to be who you are and our duty should be to love one another despite of who we are as individuals,” said the Executive Director of EAVA, Vincent Kyabayinze in his opening address to the event. He further appreciated attendees for their presence because they are in a better position to preach inclusivity and love for all. “We are glad that some religious leaders are standing with us to advance the inclusion of LGBTQ people in places of worship.”

In the following sessions, participants recounted their experiences in their lobbying journey, emerging issues, key lessons learnt and delved in-depth on strategies that can be utilized to ensure inclusion in the Ugandan context.

Pastor Simon Mpinga, Leader of The Family of Affirming Ministries-TFAM Uganda introduced attendees to Radical Inclusivity in his presentation, a concept that encourages non-discrimination. He also shared steps to Radical Inclusion which include recognition of individual values. “Radical Inclusion must be intentional, it requires a new way of being, awareness and understanding. Radical Inclusion seeks to remove shame and fear as we acknowledge diversity. And this can only be sustained when everyone is responsible and held accountable,” Pastor Simon emphasized.

On the topic of Advocacy facilitated Ms Ikilai Winfred, participants delved into discussion on the importance and tips of effective advocacy, power mapping, the urgency for Social Change and development of an advocacy agenda for inclusion in the religious sector. Ms Winfred explained to attendees in her presentation that Advocacy is a process aimed at change of attitudes, actions, policies and laws through influencing the society and institutes to identify and see the problem especially for challenged marginalized groups that are seen of no value in the communities.
“Why we need advocacy is for justice in face of violence, stigma and discrimination. For policy reforms in light of criminalizing laws, unfavorable policies and lack of enforcement especially when marginalized groups are sidelined and denied resources yet they are citizens of this country,” Winfred stated, “Advocacy is a platform to push for effective resource allocation, decisions within political, economic and social systems or institutions that directly affect people’s lives at all levels”.

To wind it down, Bishop Senyonjo Christopher who graced the occasion as the guest of honor called for dissemination of more information to highlight the grave impacts of religious violence through dialogues. This will further inform on the relevance of understanding on human sexuality beyond only reproduction. Bishop Senyonjo also stressed the spread of the message on acceptance and love for one self with grace which will encourage love for all. “It is very important to accept yourself for who you are and not just run away. God created us differently but in his image and as such, we should accept and respect each other,” Bishop Senyonjo said in his statement in which he pledged his continuance to work with religious leaders and LGBTQ persons through love and goodness to promote inclusivity in places of worship.

Among the highlights of the event was the signing of commitment pledge cards in support of creation of safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ persons in places of worship within communities.

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