Uganda Passes the Anti Homosexuality Bill

On Friday, December 20,index 2013, the Ugandan Parliament passed the long-dreaded kill-the-gays bill otherwise known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. 

The bill, as passed, does not call for the death penalty; instead, it mandates life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.” However, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has not yet signed the bill and much remains unclear about what has transpired today, and more importantly, what will happen in the days to come.

Followers of this story, which began in 2009, will remember that the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament had promised to pass the bill as a Christmas present last year; though delayed, it seems the Speaker made good on his promise, to the dismay of LGBTQ activists all around the world.

There remains much that we don’t know.  We have yet to get a copy of the bill to know exactly what it says.  There have also been questions as to whether the Ugandan Parliament actually had a quorum today, which is necessary to pass any legislation. 

President Museveni has long been against the passage of this bill, knowing the international consequences and stating that Uganda already has sufficient anti-homosexuality legislation to fully criminalize homosexuality in Uganda.  However, on his visit to Nigeria two weeks ago, Museveni’s tune began to change; he called on Nigeria to support his stand against Western governments, imploring the nation to follow his lead to “preserve African culture.” During this same visit, Museveni was quoted as wondering why the west is “not concerned about the development of my country, they are only concerned about gays.”  

Nigeria also passed an anti-same sex marriage bill this week. Both the Ugandan and Nigerian bills call for lengthy prison terms (life imprisonment in the former and 15 years in the latter). Groups combating HIV/AIDS are urging both nations not to sign into effect their respective anti-homosexual policies as doing so compromises efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in both countries.

Our partners at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) have issued the following statement on the passage of the bill:

SMUG has learnt that the Bill as passed by Parliament maintains the prohibition of consensual same sex acts between adults and prescribes a penalty of life imprisonment for so-called repeat offenders. It also requires “persons in authority, including persons exercising religious or social authority to report offences under the Act within twenty four hours or else face imprisonment for three years or a fine.” Furthermore, the Bill maintains the offence of “Promotion of Homosexuality” against anyone who acts as an accomplice or in any way abets homosexuality and “related practices.”


“I’m outraged and disappointed that the Uganda parliament has acted in a very ignorant and irrational way” said Frank Mugisha the Executive Director, SMUG. “We shall fight this legislation TO THE END.” he asserts.

Read the full statement here.

A UU-UNO former intern Russell Hathaway, now a student at the University of Chicago, has prepared a detailed history of LGBTI issues in Uganda.  To read this, please click here: LGBT Rights Uganda.

The UU United Nations Office is in touch with all of our partners in Uganda, seeking to better understand what the bill says, how that will manifest, and if it has even legally passed. We’ll be following up with actions UU’s can take to stand in solidarity with the Ugandan LGBTQ community once our partners advise us on how best to support them at this difficult time.

In the meantime, your support in our ongoing efforts to combat global homophobia is needed now more than ever: Please donate to the UU-UNO today.

KUJENGA MADARAJA – Spanning Cultures: ICUU Conference & Council Meeting



The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) will hold its biannual Conference and Council Meeting January 28-31, 2014 at the beautiful and inspiring campus of the UU congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, New York.   More than 140 Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists from twenty-five countries will gather for the event.

The program (PDF) will include theme talks, worship services, chalice circle groups and other activities, as well as opportunities for networking and getting to know sisters and brothers from around the world.

ICUU is the international network of Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist organizations. 23 national full member groups comprise the voting members of the Council. Provisional and emerging groups represent Unitarians from more than a dozen more countries. More information about ICUU can be found at and

All are invited to the ICUU OPENING CELEBRATION AND COMMUNITY GLOBAL WORSHIP and the Welcoming Party on Tuesday evening January 28, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at UUCSR (at no charge) and to the CLOSING CEREMONY AND PETER MAYER CONCERT at Community Church (Unitarian Universalist) in New York City on Friday evening January 31 at 7:30 pm (suggested contribution $15).  An International Minister’s Meeting will be held on the weekend following the Council meeting and Conference (February 1-2).

For additional information, please contact Rev. Steve Dick, ICUU Executive Director 


Conference Theme

ICUU Program Guide
View or download the Guide.

Kujenga Madaraja is a Swahili phrase as in “Bora kujenga madaraja kuliko kuta” which translates as “It is better to build bridges than walls” and is taken to mean “It is better to unite than to separate people.” Swahili is mainly spoken as a second language by many Africans, to communicate with others beyond the tongue of their own tribe.

It reminds us of the potential of our language of faith to transcend the cultures that may separate us if we can discover and master multi-cultural skills and perspectives.

In terms of our international progressive religious community embodied in ICUU, this theme is particularly relevant. How do we truly work together, for mutual benefit? What strengths and depths are available to us when we appreciate and understand our differences?

Intercultural and cross-cultural work requires more than good will and intentions – it requires skills, commitments, and practice. The ICUU is a truly multi-cultural organization, and our work together requires multi-cultural competency. To truly build the bridges of understanding that can support our global cooperation, we each need to learn new skills, together.

In this council meeting and conference we’ll focus on how to improve our skills and increase our effectiveness in nurturing U-Uism in many different cultures, to strengthen our presence and our impact everywhere we live. (more…)

Challenges for Religious Freedom in the Digital Age | August 2014

IARF World Congress

The International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) will be hosting its 34th World Congress at the University of Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, from August 24 to 27, 2014.

The theme of the upcoming congress, “Challenges for Religious Freedom: The Digital Age,” is inextricably tied to the welcoming and diverse character of the selected host city, a main reason for its selection. The perennial — but necessary — questions what is freedom? and what is religion? figure into the daily religious, social, and commercial life of this second most populous city in England.

Is digitalization a new age or another phase of the information age, and how does this impact the expression, accessibility, and freedom of religion? Keynote speaker Karen Armstrong, and a multitude of planned presenters, will lead the Congress in exploration of these issues.

Add-on tours pre and post Congress will be available, exploring London, Northern Ireland, and beyond. View the Congress flyer (PDF)

Registration details are forthcoming. 

Birmingham UK

2013 UN Sunday Readings

Get excited for UN Sunday! To celebrate UN Day (October 24th), the UU-UNO posted readings to be used for a UN Sunday service or event.   We invited our UU-UNO Envoys (and any passionate congregants) to host UN Sunday service or event and focus on this year’s topic: Sex, Love and Violence: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in a Globalized World.  A 2013 UN Sunday resource packet is available for download at

Annette - Head Shot

Our final featured contribution in this years UN Sunday Readings blog is by Annette Marquis.  Annette Marquis serves as LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director for the Unitarian Universalist Association. She is the author of Resistance: A Memoir of Civil Disobedience in Maricopa County from Skinner House Books.  Learn more about multicultural programming by getting involved in the Ministries Sharing Project and take the survey now:


The Wonder of Us All

Nothing is more sacred than the human body. It is the essence of life. From the glint in our eyes to the formation of our toes, the assembly of molecules that make up each individual human being is as unique as a flame rising from a lighted chalice. None is us is exactly alike – none of the 7.2 billion people on our planet today or the billions that have come before us is exactly alike. The mystery and wonder of that reality is beyond human comprehension. It is what makes life sacred.

Because holding this degree of diversity is so challenging, over the centuries, we have created categories in which to place people: gender, skin color, size, nationality, ability, points of view, belief. These categories help us to organize the world, to simplify the complexities that life offers, to make sense of what can overwhelm us. We find comfort in people who look like us, act like us, have customs we understand, believe in issues that are consistent with our own.

None of these categories has been as simply defined as gender identity and the expectation of sexual/affectional orientation. Is it a boy or a girl? Male or female. Man or woman. However, we say it, the meaning is clear. You are one or the other. There have only been two choices available to us – no in-betweens, no exceptions. Which one you are assigned at birth defines what is expected of you, the gender roles you are assigned. If you’re a boy, you’re expected to be strong, to fight, to lead. And, if you’re a girl, you are expected to be soft, gentle, and submissive. Boys grow up to marry women. A girl’s job is to find a good husband.

In the 21st century of the common era, in what has been called the third wave of feminism, we have begun to recognize, and in some cases, even accept that not all people fit neatly into this binary definition of what it means to be human. Our bodies might not be clearly defined with male or female organs, or in some cases, might be inconsistent with our psychological identity. And who we find attractive, who we come to love, is not limited to the so-called “opposite sex.”

For every person to be fully honored in the unique and sacred package that makes them human, we are challenged to let go of the categories that have brought us comfort in the past. Our deepest, most spiritual task is to open our minds and our hearts to the beauty that lives in the differences between us.

For some of us, this opens up the world and increases our understanding of the challenges that people face. Through this, we develop empathy for and feel a connection to their mutual humanity that would never have been possible before.

For others of us, letting go of the binary categories of gender identity and sexual orientation is discomforting, even scary. We experience the differences as threatening, and in some cases, even immoral. Rather than reach out to develop better understanding, we retreat further into the safety of our own limited lives.

As some places in the world have become more accepting, other places are passing new laws to force people back into the categories they have determined to be acceptable. As a result, people who are perceived to be different are bullied, beaten, fired, thrown out of their homes, driven to suicide, jailed, and, in way too many instances, even killed.

Which type of person are you? Is your world constantly open to new discoveries, to being transformed by what you learn from others, to the unique and wondrous differences between us? Or is it shut down, walled off, fearful of change?

The choice you make matters. How you live your daily life within your own family, with your children, and your grandchildren, your colleagues at work, the people in your congregation matters. Your advocacy for just laws and equal treatment matters. Your witness to what it means to be uniquely, divinely, sacredly human matters.

If you’re worried about knowing all the terminology, all the definitions, all the new categories that people of today are claiming for themselves, it’s OK to let that go. Sure, it’s great to feel informed, to be knowledgeable, but all you really have to do is be open to the differences.

“Tell me about your life and let me tell you about mine.”

And then celebrate the wonder of us all.


Click for more information about UN Sunday

Week 6


Our contribution this week is a poem written by Lucas Ryan.  Lucas Ryan is a junior at Topeka High School in Topeka, Kansas. He is president of the debate and forensics program at Topeka High. He loves attending youth CONs and the UU-UNO Intergenerational Spring Seminar. This piece was written for the poetry slam at the 2013 Intergenerational Spring Seminar on gloabl LGBTQ human rights.


Our Place (more…)

ICUU International Ministers Gathering: February 1-2, 2014


ICUU International Ministers Gathering

February 1 and 2, 2014

Theme: Connecting As Ministers Across Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist Cultures

“We serve and work in many different countries, within many different cultures, in different economies and political settings, speaking different languages and guided by different theologies, yet beneath and beyond our differences, we share the work of being a minister in common.  What is it that we share?  How do we discover and describe our differences, especially in ways that help us learn more about ourselves, each other and ministry?”

Join with other Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist ministers from ICUU groups around the world, for 2 rare days of face-to-face meeting and learning, February 1 and 2, 2014, in New York City.  Take part in shared worship, theological reflection and dialogue about the work we do, and how we can help and support each other. We’ll consider the special roles ministers play in connecting U-U groups around the world, the skills we need to work cross-culturally, and how both our differences and our similarities can be sources of strength and insight.  We’ll aim toward understandings of how we can be accountable to each other for bringing the realities of our global movement into our daily, local work.

Ministerial colleagues from Canada, England, India, Romania, Hungary, Burundi, Uganda, the USA, and more are already planning to be there.  We hope you’ll join us!

To register, select the appropriate additional option when registering for the ICUU Conference and Council Meeting.

Participation is limited to persons recognized as ministers by ICUU Member and Emerging Groups and regarded as such by the ICUU staff and Executive Committee.

For further information or queries, please contact ICUU at execsec / at /



The 2-day ministers gathering following the ICUU council meeting and conference is planned as an opportunity for ministers who attend the CM & C to gather for further dialogue and learning, toward the aim of developing deeper relationships and new understandings of accountability to each other for the responsibilities of U-U ministry.  Our work together in this gathering will build on the activities of the previous days, including specific training in intercultural working skills with Beth Zemskey, small group meetings focusing on shared questions, and presentations and workshops about identifying and articulating the differences among us.  While it won’t be impossible for a person to profitably join in the conversation at the ministers gathering (nothing is impossible!), it might be difficult, both for the individual and for the group, to help that individual come up to speed.  For that reason we encourage individuals to seriously consider attending the entire CM & C if they are interested in being part of the ministers gathering.   We are willing to consider a very small number of individuals for only the gathering, if they have some experience with multiculturalism in the UU context and some experience in the international U-U movement.


New Climate Change Religious Education Curriculum

CaptureHi! My name is Lily Hartzell and I’m an intern at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. I live in California, and I’m entering my senior year of high school. This summer I have been creating a religious education curriculum geared towards fourth and fifth graders. Its goal is to spread awareness and action about the effects of climate change to a young age group, and in doing so, increase support for global environmental initiatives.


The United Nations works in many areas related to climate change, and I used these categories to form the foci of my lessons. Each of the six lessons is about one aspect of the issue, including climate change and religion, food shortages, human health, natural disasters, energy use, and tragedy of the commons. Many of the resources provided relate to the UN, such as a board game created by United Nations International Children Fund (UNICEF) about disaster prevention and the story about a woman helped by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The international focus of the curriculum is motivated by the fact that climate change is a truly global problem. We gratefully acknowledge the UUA Tapestry of Faith program “World of Wonder” for stories in sessions one and five. globe_east_20481


It is imperative that this generation not only understand the nature of the problem of climate change, but has the motivation and tools to take action. This curriculum is meant to make participants knowledgeable about the many ways climate change is already changing our lives and the potential it has to do more damage. However, Do One Thing projects are included to encourage participants to take action in one area of their lives, such as reducing the carbon they release to get to school. Stories, activities, discussions, case studies, and background information are all provided to give the students a solid understanding of each topic.


An important part of the curriculum is its ties to Unitarian Universalism. Our religion is one based in social action, and climate change is one of the biggest action items of our time. The seventh principle of respecting the interdependent web of which we are a part is also a call to action on environmental issues.


This curriculum can be used by any congregation as religious education or a separate program. It can be expanded or condensed to fit specific situations. I encourage you to bring it to your congregation to spread awareness and engage with youth about finding solutions to climate change. Follow the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office on Twitter and on Facebook for more updates or visit our Climate Change Initiative Program page.

Event Recap “Food Security, Nutrition, Land Degradation: Climate-Resilient Solutions”

event email banner3Food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, land degradation, climate change and their interactions have all been major topics of discussion in the development of the United Nations (UN) post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated:

“Obesity and malnutrition may seem like polar opposites. But more and more countries are suffering from both. And the answer to both is better nutrition… The Scaling Up Nutrition initiative has support from more than 20 countries. They understand that food and nutrition security is a human right. They know that food and nutrition security drives economic, social and human development.”

Event Speakers, Molly, George, Marc, Bruce (1500x1154)
Event Speakers, left to right: Molly Perchlik, George Bouma, Marc Levy, Bruce Knotts

On August 6, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) joined together with over 35 representatives from UN missions and organizations, other NGOs and community members in the United Nations Church Center to learn about and discuss these issues. After listening to formal presentations by the expert panelists, audience members participated for over an hour in a lively discussion. The afternoon ended with a thank you and summary statement, and many people stayed to continue the dialogue on climate-resilient solutions with each other and the panelists. The event was greatly informative and engaging, inspiring those attending to support UN work for sustainable solutions to food and nutrition security and strive for change in their own lives and communities.

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In the past century, we have increased food production and have seen increasing climate change, partly as a result of activities related to agriculture. In addition, climate change is endangering food security and has many negative implications for agricultural production due to increased environmental stress including drought, heat, and shifts in water availability, with areas currently suffering from food insecurity most at risk. The increased demand for agricultural products (food, materials, bioenergy crops) of the exponentially growing world population has negative effects on agricultural systems such as the depletion of soil fertility, biodiversity, and water resources. In order to ensure food security, we need to work to reduce the amount of required production of food globally, meet food production needs of a growing and changing population, and minimize the effect of food production on climate.


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Professor Marc Levy speaks about the risk of social unrest due to food inflation.

Event organizer Molly Perchlik, from the UU-UNO Climate Change Initiative, first gave an introduction and discussed how climate change is interconnected with agricultural and industrial development issues. It was clearly illustrated that there can be no long-term solution to food and nutrition security without effectively dealing with its environmental impacts, including climate change. Next, the first panelist, Marc Levy, Deputy Director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, spoke about the interaction between governance and climate change resolutions. He emphasized the importance of stable government action and taking an integrated, evidence-based approach to implementing effective climate change solutions. The second panelist, George Bouma, Co-Director of the Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), a cosponsored program by the UN Development Program and the UN Environment Program, described the role of institutions

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George Bouma speaks about the cost of unsustainable natural resource use.

in providing sustainability and security for environment and climate change solutions. He stated, “There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to food scarcity. Supply and demand differs in developing countries,” and described the PEI approach to support governments to include pro-poor and environmentally sustainable natural resource use in development planning and implementation.


After the panelist presentations, audience members engaged in a dialogue and discussion with the panelists about the issue in five rounds of questions. Topics ranged from feedback mechanisms involved in food production between producers and consumers, to how we can better teach about climate change and nutrition, to dealing with conflicting development goals. The event concluded with a message from UU-UNO Executive Director Bruce Knotts, urging everyone continue to be involved, inspire action to mitigate the impacts of climate change and land degradation and support the work of the UN to implement responsible risk management for food and nutrition security.


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Panelists respond to audience questions.

Following the event, many attendees expressed how much they appreciated the clarity and directness of the panelist’s presentations and how powerful and valuable they found the group discussion. The event successfully brought together members of the UN and the broader community in a dynamic discussion on how to effectively support climate-resilient solutions to food and nutrition insecurity. The cosponsors of this event, the United Nations NGO Committee for Human Rights and the United Nations NGO Committee on Sustainable Development helped to make the event a success and their support is greatly appreciated.



Be Like Others: Sex Reassignment Surgery in Iran Event

CaptureIn the Islamic Republic of Iran, homosexuality is criminalized and punishable, in some cases, by death.  Sex reassignment surgery, however, is legal, and Iran performs the second most sex reassignment surgeries of any country in the world.  The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office cordially invites you to a film screening and panel discussion about this important topic:



Be Like Others: Sex Reassignment Surgery in Iran

Thursday, August 22, 2013, 12:30-2:45pm

10th floor, United Nations Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York


  • Screening of the award-winning documentary Be Like Others: 12:30pm
  • Panel Discussion: 1:45pm


Free and open to all! Bring your own lunch, ice cold water will be provided.


Be Like Others Event Flyer Version 4













About Be Like Others:

Be Like Others, a 2008 documentary by Iranian-American director Tanaz Eshaghian, tells the stories of patients at a Tehran sex reassignment clinic.  The film focuses on two Iranians who want to have male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, and illuminates the complexities and challenges they face, from family acceptance to legal processes to post-surgery life.  The film is personally and intellectually compelling, presenting moving individual stories while simultaneously interrogating issues of sexuality and gender identity in Iran.

Watch the trailer for Be Like Others here!



Hossein Alizadeh—International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator

Mitra Rastegar- Ph. D, Professor at NYU



International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)

Upcoming Event! “Food Security, Nutrition, and Land Degradation: Climate-Resilient Solutions”


The Unitarian Universalist United Nation’s Office (UU-UNO), in collaboration with the United Nations NGO Committee for Human Rights and the NGO Committee for Sustainable Development, cordially invite you attend and participate in an upcoming event:



Food Security, Nutrition, and Land Degradation:
Climate-Resilient Solutions

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013, 12:15-2:30 PM

United Nations Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, NYC

Hardin Room on 11th floor


  • Introduction of issue by the Climate Change Initiative
  • Presentation on concerns and solutions by expert panelists
  • Interactive panel discussion with audience

*Light Refreshment Provided*

Click Here to download the event flier

Climate Change and Sustainable Ag Event online final- MP


United Nations Sustainable Development Working Group


Members of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Climate Change Initiative engaged with member states and many other UN entities at the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which completed its fourth of eight planned sessions last month, June 17th-19th, at the UN headquarters in NYC. Called for by the Rio+20 conference, the OWG learned about specific issues of concern through presentations and side events and had open statements and discussions about these issues. The member states were entrusted to make these goals clear, aspirational as well as limited in number, which proved challenging as many important issues and concerns were raised throughout the OWG.

Discussion topics of this Fourth Session were “Employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture” and “Health and population dynamics”. These sessions are facilitating the development of a proposal to the General Assembly for a set of sustainable development goals for post 2015, this date marking the end of the Millennium Development Goals. We are in excited anticipation for the final report of the OWG, scheduled to be completed in the next year and hope that the social, economic and environmental dimensions are effectively addressed and integrated to minimize trade-offs between them.

Click here more info on the UU-UNO’s Climate Change Initiative

Click here for more info about the Open Working Group and schedule

Click here for additional statements and event resources

Open Working Group in Trusteeship Council Chamber

Click events to read the UU-UNO summary

1)    Main EventEmployment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture
Panel and discussion: Dr. Haroon Bhorat, Dr. Karen Mundy and Mr. Fernando Filgueira

Side Events Attended

2)   Main EventHealth, Population dynamics
Keynote address: Dr. Hans Rosling, Panel and discussion: Dr. Janette Vega, Dr. Saroj Jayasinghe and Dr. Paulina Makinwa-Adebusoye

Side Event Attended

  Conclusions and Thoughts

Read More…