Religions and Spirituality

Roselle Park Residents Joe DeIorio and Thos Shipley meet with LGBT Advocate Bishop Christopher Senyonjo.

Thos Shipley, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Joe DeIorio, Mary Senyonjo Credits: Joe DeIorio and Thos Shipley
Thos Shipley, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Joe DeIorio, Mary Senyonjo Credits: Joe DeIorio & Thos Shipley

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, the Anglican bishop from Uganda spoke at the Union Theological Seminary in New York on the topic, “Defending LBGTQ Human Rights on the Front Line in Uganda.”

The Bishop has been a courageous and outspoken advocate for human rights, including LGBTQ rights, in his home country. He has received Union’s Unitas award as a distinguished alumnus at Union Theological Seminary and also the Clinton Global Initiative award.

The Bishop appears in the documentaries, Call Me Kuchu (2012), which explores the struggles of the LGBT community in Uganda and its follow up God Loves Uganda (2013), examines the evangelical campaign to spread the values of America’s Christian Right in Uganda (Netflix) and Uganda’s controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill commonly known as the “Kill the Gays” Bill. 

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During that evening’s discussion, much attention was placed on the influence of church and religion into public policy in Uganda and the backlash from the international community for its criminalization and death penalty initiatives against the LGBT community and their supporters. Bishop Senyonjo reminded the attendees of Jesus’ message of Love and Compassion and his message of self-acceptance that he preaches in his home native country.

Afterwards, Roselle Park Residents, former Mayor Joseph DeIorio and his husband Thos Shipley had the rare opportunity to meet with the Bishop and his wife Mary.  “Bishop Senyonjo is an extraordinary man.  He and his wife have put their lives in danger for the LGBT community by seeing everyone as God’s children. His faith is stronger than his fear, and it’s that faith that will persevere,” said DeIorio   Shipley added, “While we fight for equality in the United States, we need to be reminded that in other parts of our world that being born homosexual is a death sentence for many and there is more to do here and in other parts of the world for our brothers and sisters worldwide.” “I am forever amazed, saddened and disgusted that our fellow so called Christians can, supposedly in the name of God, go to another country and spread a gospel that perpetrates the disenfranchisement, imprisonment and execution of it’s own people because of their sexual orientation,” Shipley concluded.

When asked what the general public can do to help, Bishop Senyonjo responded; maintain communication between the LGBT community in Uganda and the outside world. Knowing that there are supporters who are thinking of them and praying for them means the world. The Bishop’s next initiative is to build centers of learning next to universities in Uganda, where LGBT individuals can feel safe and can learn trades, and interact with other persons.  By working with one another, many of their fears become dispelled.

Joe DeIorio and Thos Shipley are chairs of the LGBTQI Ministry, Beyond Labels at Fort Washington Church in New York City. Both men encourage people to watch these documentaries to broaden their knowledge of the plight of the LGBT community internationally.

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