“This is a fast-growing humanitarian situation which we have never seen before,” said Benson Okabo, World Vision’s West Nile Refugee Response operations manager. “We are concerned that the donor assistance has been little.”
It was her desire to hear the stories of real people — “not just faceless refugees or immigrants” — that brought the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton to a refugee resettlement agency that provides a range of services to refugees in the Chicago area.
“Especially now, when there’s this fear that’s been stirred up, and anti-refugee sentiment, it’s really critical to say, ‘No, these people are our grandparents, our aunts and uncles,” said the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination.
REMEMBER WHEN the Kony 2012 video went viral? The short documentary, produced by the controversial Invisible Children organization about brutal Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, purportedly reached more than half of young adults in the U.S. when it was released. Young Christians across the country swarmed their elected representatives, urging action against Kony, which quickly legitimized Obama’s deployment of U.S. military forces to hunt a relatively idle madman with depleted resources.
Since then, U.S. militarization in Africa has shown no sign of slowing. In 2006, according to The Intercept, “just 1 percent of [U.S.] commandos sent overseas were deployed in the U.S. Africa Command [AFRICOM] area of operations. In 2016, 17.26 percent of all U.S. Special Operations forces ... deployed abroad were sent to Africa.” The U.S. admits to the existence of one permanent base in Africa, in Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden, while U.S. special forces are deployed in “more than 60 percent of the 54 countries on the continent.”
Special operations and collaborations with proxy militias enable U.S. militarism in Africa to persist with very little public awareness or oversight—and wreak havoc on local populations.
“By keeping us in a state of perpetual war, the arms trade grows,” said Norman Tumuhimbise, a Ugandan youth activist kidnapped and tortured in 2015 by a branch of Uganda’s military that trains under U.S. anti-terror programs.
A senior Roman Catholic bishop in the Central African Republic is warning that the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel force that killed more than 100,000 people in northern Uganda in the 1980s and ’90s, is rising up again in his country. Bishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia said the LRA, led by self-declared prophet Joseph Kony, has become one of the biggest threats to peace in his country and in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
Various factions within the Anglican Communion are jockeying for position as bishops of the world’s third-largest Christian tradition gather in Canterbury for the start of a six-day meeting to discuss the future of their communion.
But averting a split may not be possible.
Pope Francis wrapped up his six-day trip to Africa in the war-torn Central Africa Republic on Nov. 30 by warning that religious conflicts are spawning civil war, terrorism, and suffering throughout the continent.
“Together we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, especially violence perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself,” the pope said in Bangui, the capital.
“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, ‘salaam,’ ” the pope said, using the Arabic word for peace.
A growing number of LGBT Ugandans are fleeing to neighboring Kenya to escape violence and persecution, a Ugandan Catholic priest says.
People are beaten, raped, evicted, and dismissed from their jobs because of their sexual identity or orientation, the Rev. Anthony Musaala said during a talk at All Saints Catholic Church as part of a monthlong visit to the United States and Canada.
Even associating with or advocating for LGBT people may spur discrimination, he said.
Uganda’s top Anglican leader criticized the constitutional court for striking down the country’s controversial anti-gay law on a technicality, saying the law is still needed to protect children and families from Western-imported homosexuality.
A five-judge panel on Friday declared the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, null and void since it was passed by parliament without the required quorum. Dismissing the law on a technicality maintains the possibility that it could be revived in a different form.
The law punishes homosexual acts with life imprisonment. President Yoweri Museveni signed the measure in February, drawing harsh criticism from Western nations and cuts in foreign aid.
Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali called the decision a disappointment for the Church of Uganda, religious leaders and many Ugandans.
“The ‘court of public opinion’ has clearly indicated its support for the Act, and we urge Parliament to consider voting again on the Bill with the proper quorum in place,” Ntagali said on Monday.
April 24-30 is World Immunization Week. While it is estimated that vaccinations save the lives of 2.5 million children every year, another 1.5 million children die each year from diseases that can be prevented with vaccines. Christian organizations are working to change this and help the global health community reach the 20 percent of children worldwide who miss out on life-saving vaccines.
Sylvia, a mother of three in Kasese, Uganda says she was aware of vaccines to prevent disease, but did not understand their importance or the fact that children need a number of vaccinations throughout the first five years of life. “All I understood was that there are killer diseases we should immunize our children against,” explained Sylvia. “I took my first and second child for vaccines for only the first nine months of life. I didn’t learn my children would still be at risk of catching diseases if they were not immunized for five full years until an educator from the Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation (BMCF) came to my village.”
Reaching parents with information about vaccines and vaccinating children is critical to child survival. Immunization is one of the main drivers behind the tremendous decline in child deaths the world has experienced in recent decades.
Editor's Note: This post is adapted from a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Nixon.
Some of us have stood at a tomb, faced an open grave, scattered the ashes of one beloved. We know what it’s like to be confronted with the stark reality of death and the flood of conflicting emotions that comes with it. I’ve stood at different sites at Dry Creek Cemetery in Boise, Idaho, and the Veteran’s Cemetery next to it, to bury my father, my brother, my nephew, my step-father and-step sister, my brother-in-law, not to mention my beloved piano teacher, and a dear high school friend. Not so long ago I stood by the open grave of Patrice Heath as her casket was lowered into the ground. We prayed and wept and celebrated her life, but it is not an easy thing, under any circumstances, to lay a loved one to rest.
The ancient story of Lazarus being raised from the dead in John 11:1-45 is just such a situation. It’s also another occasion to encounter Jesus in his divinity and his humanity. It’s a long, complicated story. You have heard it read. I will not attempt to unpack it all.
American evangelicals are denouncing a new Uganda law that criminalizes homosexuality, reiterating a position that many have held for years but which has nonetheless drawn scrutiny and skepticism from critics.
Since 2009, several American pastors and leaders have condemned legislation in Uganda that in its initial version imposed the death penalty for some offenders. Under the revised law signed recently by President Yoweri Museveni, the death penalty was removed and replaced with life in prison in some cases.
Now, American evangelicals who insist they never supported either version of the law nonetheless find themselves playing defense, saying their statements against homosexuality at home are being twisted as an endorsement of harsh penalties against gays and lesbians abroad.
Ahead of his five-day visit to Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a statement reminding Anglicans of the commitment the Church of England made eight years ago to the pastoral care and support of everyone, including gays and lesbians.
So far, the archbishop’s statement has not convinced African leaders.
On Wednesday, Anglican leaders in Africa rejected a proposal by the English College of Bishops for two-year “facilitated conversations” to address the differences over homosexuality within the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In the last month, many Westerners watched in horror as Uganda, and then Nigeria, enacted laws that are brutally repressive to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The fate of a bill passed by the Ugandan parliament remains uncertain after President Yoweri Museveni refused to sign it, but news reports from Nigeria indicate that there have been mass arrests of gay men following President Goodluck Jonathan’s signing of the National Assembly’s anti-gay bill.
World leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have expressed their dismay. Many Christian leaders around the world, regrettably, have been largely unwilling to criticize Christian leaders in Africa who cheered the passage of these punitive laws.
At prayer healing services in some Pentecostal churches, pastors invite people infected with HIV to come forward for a public healing, after which they burn the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declare the person cured.
The “cure” is not free, and some people say they shell out their life savings to receive a miracle blessing and quit taking the drugs.
“I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers,” said Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of Nairobi. “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”
But the controversial ceremonies are raising red flags as believers’ conditions worsen, and a debate has opened over whether science or religion should take the lead in the fight against the AIDS epidemic.
A campaign to arrest an African warlord generated awareness in more ways than the effort’s co-founder Jason Russell could have ever imagined.
The “Kony 2012″ campaign captured widespread attention for its push to arrest Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which abducts and forces children to become soldiers. For a grass-roots video project that suddenly went viral, it was a phenomenal success.
Two weeks after the group Invisible Children released the video last year, Russell, the group’s co-founder, was detained and hospitalized for erratic behavior after he was found running naked and cursing the devil in the streets of San Diego.
When Ugandan parliament member, David Bahati, introduced the so-called “Kill the Gays Bill” in 2009, many Americans were shocked, including a group of 60 ecumenical Christian leaders who released a statement deploring the bill.
But as Frank Mugisha told Sojourners magazine earlier this year, what is perhaps more upsetting, albeit little known, is the level of influence American evangelicals have had in crafting Uganda’s violent homophobia.
Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams hopes to put this issue front and center with his new film God Loves Uganda, which made its Washington, D.C., premiere Tuesday night at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters.
The film opens with Rev. Kapaya Kaoma, an Episcopal priest from Boston by way of Zambia, who went to Uganda in 2009 to study the relationship between American conservatives and the Ugandan people. What he found was that “religion was being used to demonize and even to kill.”