“Erasing 76 Crimes” – a website that tracks Africa’s anti-gay laws and acts of violence, carried news this week of a vigil in Uganda’s Kampala city for the 49 lives lost in Orlando, Florida, at the gay community’s gathering spot called Pulse.
The ‘Uganda Is Orlando’ vigil began with a reading by Bishop Christopher Senyonjo and a sermon of encouragement, as recalled by Stella Nyanzi, a Ugandan activist.
“He highlighted the widespread ignorance of human sexuality… And yet God loves us all no matter our sexual orientation. We are all created in God’s image,” she recalled.
Other speakers included a transgender woman who compared Orlando and Kampala’s community responses to the massacre. Police officers take hours upon hours to respond to civilian crises in Uganda, she said. What if the murderer had stormed one of our own safe spaces in Kampala?
A lesbian who was co-coordinator for the coalition that fought against anti-homosexuality legislation encouraged the group to defy the hatred of homophobia.
At the same time, the London-based LGBTI organization “Out and Proud Diamond Group”, published a statement which read in part: “What happened in Orlando could happen in any country, including Commonwealth countries. It is scary for me and other members of the African LGBTI organization Out and Proud Diamond Group to see many lives lost and many others wounded in a country that allows same-sex relationships.
“It is crucial that we challenge extreme religious teachings that might turn people into defenders of hate, bigotry and discrimination towards LGBTI people instead of promoters of tolerance, acceptance and love towards LGBTI people,” wrote Edwin Sesange, director of Out and Proud.
Vigils were also reported in Toronto, Paris, Sydney, Australia, Auckland, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala and Israel, among others.
The name “Erasing 76 Crimes” refers to the human toll of 76 countries’ anti-gay laws and the struggle to repeal them.
Meanwhile, in Jamaica, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte triggered a firestorm when she tweeted that the U.S. Embassy had disrespected Jamaican laws by flying the rainbow flag.
The U.S. embassy on Twitter defended the flag flying. Several responses to local media were critical of the U.S. action. Others, such as this from bamboodread asked simply: “What is in that little piece of cloth that is bruising the Jamaican spirit so?”