(Trim judiciously) In a show of solidarity with African gay-rights activists, the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo are hosting Ugandan minister Mark Kiyimba this weekend to learn about the struggle for equality in his nation.
Kiyimba heads the Kampala Central Unitarian Church in Kampala, Uganda, and came to international prominence earlier this year when he openly organized against his government's proposed harsh anti-homosexuality legislation.
"By virtue of my ministry, I'm supposed to accept everyone," Kiyimba said this week in a phone interview. "I had to stand up."
The proposed legislation would subject anyone suspected of being a homosexual to the punishment of life imprisonment or even death.
The Rev. Vail Weller, minister of the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo, called the legislation horrifying, and she said evangelical Christian preachers from America helped bring it about.
"There were some conservative religious leaders who went to Uganda to stir up anti-gay sentiment," Weller said.
Kiyimba sponsored a clandestine gathering in February to plan out how to fight back against the government's plan. The group's more than 200 gay and lesbian attendees risked possible arrest for even being there.
"It's always about risk," Kiyimba said. "There is a newspaper in Uganda that is outing everyone."
Weller said she was happy to host Kiyimba, particularly following the death in September of Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old boy from the Southern California city of Tehachapi who killed himself after being bullied over his sexuality.
"Sometimes people from another place can teach us about our own place," Weller said. "It reminds me of the work we still have to do here."
Because Uganda is one the toughest places for LGBT people, Kiyimba said he could be arrested when he returns home. Kiyimba sponsors a school and home for children in the Ugandan village of Kkindu for children who have been orphaned by parents who died due to AIDS and the stigma associated with the disease and its connection to homosexuality.
"We want help," Kiyimba said. "Political support, economic support. We want Obama's government to tell the Ugandan government to treat people like human beings."
Weller said a special collection will be taken to support Kiyimba's work.
"It's about what one person can do with a public voice to push back against fascism," she said.
The Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo are hosting a presentation by Kiyimba at 7 p.m. today and Kiyimba-led sermons at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday. The congregation meets at 300 E. Santa Inez Ave.