On Feb. 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a law allowing for life sentences for homosexuals. Since then, members of the country’s gay and lesbian community have been going into hiding or leaving the country. Western pressure has been ineffective.
Michael Kawuba is sitting in his church office reflecting on tumescence. “We Ugandans get an erection when we see a beautiful woman,” he says. “Anything else is unnatural.”
During the day, Kawuba works as a financial advisor, but once he is finished, he rejoins the battle against homosexuality. A friendly man of 31, Kawuba is married and has three children — and he is not one to rant. But every second Sunday, he preaches to the Kakumba congregation. “The Bible forbade homosexuality. God rained down fire onto Sodom and Gomorrah” — he continues in this vein for hours at a time, standing behind a wooden pulpit. The sanctuary is spacious with a roof made of palm fronds. A band including guitar, bass and drums players pumps out gospel music while worshippers sing along, sway to the rhythm and stretch their arms heavenward as they call out “praise the Lord!”
In Kigali last week, thousands of mourners trekked through a thick predawn fog to converge on Amahoro Stadium. By midmorning, in hot, raking sunshine, they filled the stands.
The Army band, with sousaphones flashing, marched to the center of the field, arrayed itself there on a round stage, and began softly playing solemn hymns. President Paul Kagame arrived, along with a dozen other sitting and former heads of state from Africa and Europe. The sky clouded over. The air smelled like rain.
A tall man in a brown suit appeared on the stage. He said that he was Fidel, a genocide survivor, and he started to tell how he was supposed to have been killed. Then the screaming began. The first voice was like a gull’s, a series of wild, high keening cries; the next was lower and slower, strangled with ache, but growing steadily louder in a drawn-out crescendo; after that came a frantic, full-throated babbling—a cascade of terrible, terrified pleading wails.
A member of the Syrian opposition recently said that “it is in our interest today to engage in a peace process” with Israel. The comments were made by opposition activist Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani, who spoke in a March 19, 2014 interview with the Syrian Orient News TV channel. The interview was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). He also noted, in his push for peace, that “Israel has genuine fears about its security. If we realize that and allow Israel to feel secure in its Sunni surroundings – after all, it is Arab Sunni land that Israel has taken – and if we make Israel feel more welcome, it may yet give up its hostile mentality which is the cause for the destruction.” When the interviewer told Al-Labwani that “Israel has expansionist goals” he replied, “Not true. The people of Israel fled persecution in the Nazi Holocaust, and they want to live in peace.”
The statements are not the first time that Syrian opposition members have reached out to Israel. In February, the Syrian opposition thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for visiting an IDF field hospital where wounded Syrians are being treated. Leaders of the opposition who spoke to Kol Yisrael radio said that Netanyahu’s public support for wounded Syrians sends an important message to the Syrian people, particularly after the failure of recent talks in Geneva between the opposition and the regime in Damascus. One of the leaders of the Syrian opposition said as far back as 2012 that if the Assad regime falls, the Syrian people will seek regional peace, including with Israel. In September, one of the rebel leaders in northern Syria expressed his appreciation for Housing Minister Uri Ariel’s comments regarding the chemical attack near Damascus last August. Ariel had said that, as Jews who suffered during the Holocaust, Israelis could not be silent over what was going on in Syria. “Allow me to send a message of thanks and appreciation to Housing Minister Uri Ariel for his humane and valuable statements and for his beautiful expression of emotion toward the children killed in Syria and toward the women being killed in Syria,” the Syrian rebel leader told Channel One News at the time. Israel has clarified that it is not a part of the civil war in Syria and does not take sides in the fighting, but Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has claimed that Israel is assisting the rebels fighting to topple his regime. A commander in the Syrian opposition at one point claimed the exact opposite, that Israel was collaborating with Iran and Hezbollah to keep Assad in power.