by Rev. Stephen Parelli
Executive Director, Other Sheep, www.othersheep.org
July 20, 2012
Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey
On Wednesday July 18, Bisexual Movement of Uganda conducted a one-day seminar at a public establishment in Muyenga, Kampala, on "Religious Freedom in the Context of Theological Diversity and Human Sexuality."Brian Ochieng, director of Bisexual Movement Uganda, reported that 190 people, including 36 university students, 80 plus high school students, local community people, and clergy, attended.
Morning Session on 'Liberty of Conscience'
In the morning session, Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep, spoke on 'Liberty of Conscience,' a human rights' principle that teaches that in matters of faith and practice each individual's conscience is free to answer to God alone without the interference or molestation of the government. Parelli said the anti-gay-marriage laws in America, and the Uganda anti-gay bill are, in effect, a denial of the free-exercise of the individual's 'liberty of conscience' in matters of what God has or has not said about homosexuality.
Parelli, referencing the Iowa Supreme Court April 3, 2009, decision for gay marriage, cited the court's statement that religion was the driving force behind the laws against gay marriage throughout America, and that, therefore, state governments, by legislating religious teachings, are acting unconstitutionally. Parelli said the Iowa Supreme Court upheld 'Liberty of Conscience.'
Throughout the morning session, Parelli gave out complimentary copies of the book The Children Are Freeto attendees who answered correctly questions Parelli put forth on 'Liberty of Conscience.' Parelli wove his personal story throughout the presentation, illustrating his theme, keeping the interest and connecting with his audience. Four individuals from the audience volunteered to come to the platform and represent four different historical characters from the Reformation and British-American Colonial periods as Parelli related the historical development of 'Liberty of Conscience.'
Afternoon Session on Theological Diversity and Human Sexuality
In the afternoon session, Parelli and Mr. Jose Ortiz, Other Sheep Coordinator for Africa, enacted a conversational dialogue on what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality. Brian Ochieng, who had attended the 2008 Other Sheep Kampala seminar, translated the Parelli-Ortiz enactment into Luganda with spirit, conviction and animation, himself familiar with the material being presented. One hundred copies of the paper "Talking Points" on the Bible and homosexuality were made available to the attendees.
NGO/ Religious Leaders Comment
Following the seminar, Eddy Kalayango, Executive Director of Rainbow and Diversity Organization Uganda (RADO) texted Rev. Parelli saying "thanks for your teachings and sharing this knowledge with us; I hope one day society will accept the LGBTI community in Uganda and respect its liberty of conscience" (used with permission).
Rev. Michael Kimindu, President of Other Sheep Africa, sent greetings to the attendees from Nairobi, Kenya, which Parelli relayed to the audience.
Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo of Kampala expressed his support of the meeting in emails to Rev. Parelli.
Police Prevent Local Official from Stopping the Conference
Following the morning session on 'Liberty of Conscience' the seminar was put on hold when a local official entered the grounds demanding that the police, already present by arrangement of the hosting NGO, immediately shut down the conference. The local official maintained that homosexuality was being promoted illegally. An attendee of the morning session had left the grounds to report his disapproval of the seminar to the local official. Police protection had been arranged prior to the conference by the NGO organizers of the day-long seminar.
Parelli, after finishing the morning session, was escorted by a police officer to an area on the grounds, a distant from the conference hall, where he was asked to remain while. at the same location, other police, the objecting local official, the offended attendee who reported to the objecting local official, and Brian Ochieng, discussed the matter. Mr. Jose Ortiz accompanied Parelli. Lively but controlled and subdued dialogued ensued between Brian, the police and the objecting local official. Brian maintained that the conference was on the Bible and religious freedom, and not the promotion of homosexuality as a lifestyle. Upon the arrival of another NGO leader who had assisted Bisexual Movement Uganda in obtaining the police protection, the matter was resolved and the conference continued without being aborted. Police protection continued.
Objecting Local Official, Addressing Attendees in the Conference Hall, Apologizes for Interruption
While attendees waited, seated in the conference hall, for the final preparations for lunch to be completed, the objecting local official asked to speak to the gathering. He spoke in Luganda. According to one NGO leader who spoke with Mr. Ortiz, the objecting local official apologized for the interruption he caused and announced that the seminar would continue. The room erupted into applause, Mr. Otiz reported.
In keeping with certain accepted practices as the norm, because the objecting local official was working on behalf of his community without compensation, after the police refused to cooperate with him, he requested Other Sheep to cover his cost of transportation for reporting his objections to the police. Other Sheep, following the recommendation of NGO leaders, covered the traveling costs of the objecting local official.
190 Assisted with Meals and Transportation
A light breakfast, substantial lunch and transport money was provided the 190 attendees.
Other Sheep, a Worldwide Organization
Other Sheep, situated in the USA, is a non-profit, faith-based organization with Coordinators in Asia, Africa, Europe and North and South America. Rev. Parelli works full time as a volunteer with Other Sheep. Since 2005, Parelli and Ortiz, legally married in 2008 in the state of California, have spoken in 17 countries worldwide. Other Sheep works worldwide for the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within their respective faith traditions.
NGO leader Brian Ochieng on the Conference and the Uganda anti-gay Bill
Brian Ochieng, commenting the day before the July 18 Kampala seminar was held said he is hoping people will see the Uganda anti-gay bill issue from a new perspective.
Links to Parelli's papers: 100 copies of each of the following two papers were made available, free of charge, at the Kampala July 18 Conference:
Talking Points - What the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality
Note: Other Sheep was in East Africa from July 3-19, 2012. Two separate NGOs in Uganda each sponsored one Other Sheep seminar; one NGO in Rwanda sponsored one Other Sheep seminar.