Ugandan gay rights activist to preach at Unitarian Universalist Church

Sunday, November 20, 2011 | 7:19 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Rev. Mark Kiyimba will preach at Columbia Unitarian Universalist Church's morning and evening services Nov. 27.

Kiyimba is an outspoken advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Uganda, his home country. He is also the founder of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kampala, Uganda.

The Unitarian Universalist Church has a policy of welcoming and accepting members of the LGBT community into their church.

Uganda has a reputation as a anti-homosexual nation. A bill is pending there that would prohibit any form of same-sex relations with lifelong imprisonment or execution as punishment.

According to a story from CNN, President Barack Obama criticized the proposed legislation at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 4, 2010. He said it is "unconscionable to target gays or lesbians for who they are."

Kiyimba spoke out about the injustice of this bill and then fled the country for his own safety.

The Rev. Sue Spencer said that having Kiyimba speak at Columbia's Universalist church she leads is a reminder to its members and others that the church’s movements have become international.

"This will help let people know that there are people who share our faith in other parts of the wold and who are actively standing up to oppression as they meet it," she said.

Kiyimba reached out to Spencer through a Facebook message, asking if he could come speak at the church. Spencer jumped at the opportunity.

"I saw it as a great opportunity. I haven't heard Mark speak, but I've heard he's a very compelling speaker," she said.

Spencer said she believes the bulk of his message will involve what is going on in Uganda and with the Unitarian Universalist Church there. There will also be a special collection taken to support the orphanage and school Kiyimba started in Uganda for children who have lost their parents to HIV or AIDS.

The morning service begins at 10:30 a.m. The evening service will begin with refreshments at 6 p.m. and Kiyimba will speak at 7 p.m. Both services are free and open to the public.

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