|Three of my five children - Ruth, Timothy, and Ethan|
I also remembered that today is Marty's Day in Uganda. I've decided to keep my Ugandan children home from their American school day. My children need to know being a Ugandan means one has a dignified place in the history of Christianity. There are many historic events for which Uganda is remembered for, but I want my children to never forget two. First, Christianity in Uganda began with martyrdom. Two, Uganda was a catalyst in the East African Revival. All Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa must include Uganda in their history.
As I read news last night I discovered that Uganda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Honorable Sam Kutesa has been nominated to become the president of United Nations General Assembly. He has been endorsed by both the African Union http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/643128-au-endorses-kutesa-for-un-presidency.html and the Non-Aligned Movement http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/656153-sam-kutesa-heads-for-un-top-job.html.
|Honorable Uganda Minister Sam Kutesa|
Honorable Kutesa has a controversial past http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Push-to-block-Kutesa-UN-job-gathers-pace/-/688334/2334132/-/item/0/-/jc2fg5/-/index.html. The Western media is reporting on Honorable Kutesa's past and focusing on the Anti-Gay bill recently signed by His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/01/uganda-anti-gay-minister-human-rights-kutesa, http://blogs.montrealgazette.com/2014/06/01/ugandas-sam-kutesa-at-the-un-bring-him-on/, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/03/the-u-n-s-next-president-is-a-gay-hating-friend-of-uganda-s-corrupt-dictator.html,and http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/06/01/3443560/sam-kutesa-un-general-assembly/.
I have never met Honorable Kutesa. However, our lives are intertwined as neighbors. His daughter
I am also friends with Honorable Kutesa's sister-in-law. Her husband is one of my better non-believing friends and advisers. Our families attend movies together and share meals. I always come away wiser. My friend has as many failings as I. We've both married well to gracious women who love us and accept our failings. I can't deny that gift of the Lord.
Lastly as a Mulokole (Born Again / Saved / Evangelical) I inherited the legacy of the East African Revival. Sam Kutesa's father, Kosiya Kyamuhangire was one of the early leaders of the East African Revival. Mzee Kyamuhangire was a true visionary who died on a mission in Gahini, Rwanda. His death seemed inconsequential at the time. His grave was unmarked. Yet, he was a true visionary who saw the colonial borders separating East Africa as irrelevant. He left a legacy of a dream for a united faith and people. His ideals saw the family of God rise above artificial divisions such as race, nationality, denomination, and ethnicity. I cannot count the number of times this legacy marked both the readings of East African history and ordinary conversations in churches, schools, government, business, and social settings (http://www.newvision.co.ug/mobile/Detail.aspx?NewsID=632330&CatID=1, http://en.igihe.com/news/president-kagame-pays-tribute-to-kosiya, http://allafrica.com/stories/201206250097.html?viewall=1, http://www.chimpreports.com/index.php/mobile/news/4848-kagame-pays-glowing-tribute-to-kutesa%E2%80%99s-fallen-dad.html.)
Honorable Kutesa is my neighbor. My Boss instructed me to love my neighbor as myself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, Mark 12:31, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8.) How do I practically do that? With today being Martyr's Day it seems especially relevant to reflect on the art of neighboring a controversial neighbor.
"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord, (Leviticus 19:18. New International Version.)" Loving one's neighbor means we know when our neighbors have done wrong. Yet, we don't nurture a wound and seek an opportunity for revenge. Instead we forgive and seek to build unity.
So much of the news from social media and Western news on Uganda focuses on the recently signed Anti-Gay bill. Yet, the whole story is not told.
There is historical evidence that homosexuality exited in pre-colonial Africa. Yet most historians conclude the Baganda (largest numeric ethnic group in the nation-state of Uganda) found the practice of homosexuality abhorrent. Buganda faced competing interests between Muslim Arab traders, French Catholic missionaries, and Protestant missionaries from the United Kingdom in the early 1880’s. Many believe that Buganda Kabaka (King) Mwanga was influenced to become a homosexual practitioner by Arab Muslims. When his pages resisted his homosexual advances it led to their martyrdom on June 3, 1886. It is little wonder why the discussion on homosexuality so rapidly stirs such deep emotions. Uganda does have deep historical wounds related to homosexuality and violence. I cannot imagine that these old stories do not impact today’s perceptions. Uganda’s history of homosexuality is perceived as one of outside influence and violence.
With so many wounds of the past and present it is tempting to neglect the mercy and justice of Godly love. My boss however makes it clear - Revenge is bad manners for neighbors. Mob justice directed against homosexuals is wrong. Mob justice on social media directed against my neighbor Kutesa is also wrong. Our neighborly task is redemption.
The dictionary defines redemption as “atoning for a fault or mistake” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/redemption,) “to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable, to free from what distresses or harms, to free from captivity by payment of ransom, to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental, to release from blame or debt, to free from the consequences of sin” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/redeem.) Both extremists in this debate seem to have lost sight of the possibility of redemption.
Redemption goes against our depraved human nature (Genesis 3.) It calls us back to the human dignity of being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27.) How do we practically return to God given dignity?
My Boss instructed us that when religious manipulators stir us to hate we choose to pray blessings upon those who choose to be our enemies. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43, 44.)"
As we pray we are changed. We no longer count score of rights and wrongs. My Boss said, "To love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33. NIV.)” After all as we count score we find that we too have our failings.
We may try to define neighbor as someone just like ourselves. The easiest ways to see our neighbor may be through lenses such as nationality, race, denomination, political party, ethnicity, and economic standards.
However, what if it comes down to affections and affiliations nurtured by shared fears and wounds?
My Boss told a story to address the misconception that my neighbor means someone just like me. Old theologians call it the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37.) We could translate Samaritan to any cluster of people our wounds make us easily despise. (For instance - http://hekimagreatlakesmessenger.blogspot.com/2013/10/somali-transporter-rescues-mbale-trader.html.)
All are worthy of love. No one should be the victim of mob justice.
As the Uganda Martyr's went to their death they did what Jesus' followers through out time did when faced with injustice. They prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them. (Acts 7:60. NIV.)”
Thus on Martyr's Day as the mobs debate and posture the Martyrs call us to another way. We cannot deny either the historic or contemporary wounds. Yet, redemption is possible. We pray for those who choose to be our enemies and act with kindness, grace, and love to all. My neighbors include the Kutesa family as well as the victims and perpetrators of contemporary mob justice.