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My friends in Uganda – all of them citizens of yours – have joined with 51 Ugandan human rights organizations to declare:
If we remain silent … we shall suffer at the hands of Ugandan leaders that have no respect for Human Rights…. We must speak out loudly against the Anti Homosexuality Bill … to let Uganda know … that “the world is watching.”
And that’s why I am writing you, Mr. President. The world cares, and it cares deeply. And the world does not share the sadly distorted views that those missionaries have carried into your land. They do not speak for us.
For people in my community, and for recent generations of Jews, the threats facing LGBT people in Uganda are all too hauntingly familiar. Mr. President, freely expressed prejudice, state-sanctioned hate and escalating attempts to use the law of the land to strip citizens of their legal rights and their humanity have no place in any country.
Now, as we and our friends around the world watch history threaten to repeat, we answer the call of our colleagues in Uganda to speak out. We cannot remain silent. We cannot simply stand by.
We urge you to take this opportunity to send a message to those who have faced discrimination, experienced abuse or survived losing someone who has been killed for being gay: that the Ugandan government does not condone these actions.
We recall the words of the late Nelson Mandela, who, in 1996, saw to it that South Africa’s new constitution barred discrimination based on sexual orientation. And please allow me to share his words with you: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”
Mr. President, your recent statements contain some very harsh language about LGBT people. Still, we believe that you understand that the anti-homosexuality law is not consistent with Uganda’s constitution, with the spirit of fair treatment for all, or with the spirit of our shared belief in something greater than ourselves.
As you lead your nation and continue to engage on the world stage with other leaders, please don’t allow this law to go into effect and send the wrong message about Uganda to the world. Don’t listen to the voices of hate. We hope you will make the decision that is best for your country and its people and not allow this bill to become the law of your land.
This opinion piece first appeared on the Huffington Post
Ruth Messinger is the president of American Jewish World Service, the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization.