It is a weekend of anticipation for Uganda’s LGBTI community. For them, the doors of the church have long been closed. So when Pope Francis’ long-awaited first visit to Africa as leader of the Catholic Church brings him to Kampala on Friday, they hope that he comes bearing a message of tolerance after years of persecution, violence and, at times, death.
It is an issue that has divided the more conservative African church leaders, eager to retain a rapidly growing Catholic population, and a seemingly progressive pontiff.
Frank Mugisha is one of Uganda’s most prominent LGBTI activists and the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda. A practising Catholic, he tells Al Jazeera’s Priyanka Gupta, that the pope’s visit has brought both hope and disappointment.
He said, The Catholic Church in Uganda has been in alliance with all the other churches in condemning and discriminating against LGBTI persons. The language that preachers use and the anti-gay statements make people who are even in the closet feel discriminated against.
Church is a place for love, for refuge and for peace and support, but that support is not given to them. They feel they have been let down by the church a lot.
Ugandans are very Christian and very religious. Eighty percent of our population is Christian. If you belong to the society, you need to belong to the church. But LGBTI persons can’t. Some of them haven’t been able to reconcile their faith and their sexuality and cannot go to the church.”