Campus Christian ministries react to “God Loves Uganda”

“We need to ask Barack Obama why it’s a human right to eat the poo poo!” A religious minister’s shocking on-screen quote sparked a roar of laughter in Ostrove Auditorium last Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams presented his film, “God Loves Uganda,” to the campus this week in order to continue the ongoing discussion of international LGBT rights. The film highlights follows a variety of religious extremists, mixing humor with more somber moments, both contributing to the film’s poignant message.
Throughout the semester, Oak Fellow Clare Byarugaba has interacted with the community to bring a new perspective on human rights. Byarugaba, Ugandan activist who identifies as lesbian, faces discrimination on a regular basis, and is fighting against her government’s efforts to criminalize homosexuality. Her story relates closely to the content of Williams’s film, which focuses on Evangelical missionaries who travel abroad in order to convert Ugandans and encourage them to denounce homosexuality.
The Oak Institute for Human Rights sponsored this event with the help of the Pugh Center, the Gender and Sexual Diversity program and the Cinema Studies department. Assistant Professor of Government Walter Hatch began the evening by introducing Williams, Byarugaba and the Oak team who helped make the event possible. In his introduction, Hatch mentioned that the film contains images of Christianity that could be interpreted as negative. He commented that Christianity is often “behind” on issues like LGBT rights, and he read a message submitted by Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Kurt Nelson, on behalf of campus ministries. Below is the text which Nelson also sent to the entire campus through the Community Digest.

To the Colby Community:
We, like so many at Colby, have learned much from Clare Byarugaba’s presence at Colby this semester, in particular about anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda (and beyond). As we prepare for the showing of the upcoming documentary God Loves Uganda – which traces the influence of a group of North American Missionaries on Uganda’s recent politics of sexuality – we wish to stand in solidarity with those who seek an end to this violence, and set forth the following message:
As members and representatives of Colby’s wide-ranging Christian communities, we affirm together the heart message of the Christian Faith – that God’s love has been extended to all people in the form of forgiveness through the selfless sacrifice of Jesus. And we are thus called to love God and see all people as neighbors, worthy of love. We acknowledge that we can always do better in this regard.
In particular, we are greatly pained by instances when people have acted in the name of Christianity in ways that do not reflect the expansive nature of God’s love and forgiveness. We know that these instances have occurred throughout history, and we are saddened that such instances continue in our time. We lament these painful actions that do not reflect God’s love and mercy.
We acknowledge that there is significant diversity within the Christian community (both at Colby and beyond) with respect to many issues and practices, including (but not limited to) sexual ethics. Together, however, we wish to stand with the great many Christians around the world who have spoken out against oppression (both formal and informal) against our neighbors in Uganda.
We know that much violence has been done to LGBT persons (in Uganda and closer to home) in the name of Christianity. We offer our solidarity with those who stand against such violence. We collectively feel the violent actions in this film do not reflect the teachings of Jesus nor the beliefs and practices of the vast majority of the diverse Christian community. We further dare to hope that those acts will not be perceived as representing the fullness of the Christian faith.
Many from our groups will be present at Wednesday’s film, and we remain open to honest, loving, and hard conversations about the road ahead together.
Sincerely,
Catholic Campus Ministry (Newman Council)
Ecumenical Christian Chapel Community
Global Friends Christian Fellowship
Intervarsity Christian Fellowship

The topic of LGBT rights will remain prominent on campus throughout the year, as the Oak Institute continues to plan events on their 2014-15 topic of gender and sexuality.

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