by “Conductor #1”
We know for a fact that Christian teachings compel humanity to be kind to one another through unconditional love; however, there is a paradigm shift in this doctrine on the part of the Catholic Church in Uganda which is apparently on a deliberate move to make life difficult or next to impossible for all who are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
There has been an upsurge in the number of gay men dismissed from seminaries. Recently 11 seminarians were dismissed from a seminary because they are gay for fear that they would “contaminate” others. However, what is surprising is that the dismissals were not formal by way of a letter. The victims say that the institution does not want to endanger its reputation and attract “noise” from activists by issuing dismissal letters, so they keep it as silent as possible as the victims suffer the humiliation and mental anguish of cutting their learning short.
One expelled seminarian tells of draconian rules that infringe on the liberties of the students. There is a rule that there is no close friendship allowed among seminarians. Lights are not switched off the entire night and, of course, there is no sharing of beds.
A number of students have been expelled from seminaries on the pretext that they were closely relating to one another. The administrators conducted investigations and found that the students engaged in ”unholy friendships”.
Eleven seminarians contacted me and with the help of the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund I was able to get them out of Uganda, where they were then helped to countries of final destination all over the world.
The temporary accommodations for the victims as they await evacuation are always in shared double rooms that have very minimum amenities. It is a challenge to try to ensure the neighborhood doesn’t become suspicious while they await the chance to leave. On a number of occasions we have had to relocate as pressure mounts from the local community who view new residents with suspicion.
The movement of the seminarians has been done in batches as the funds from our supporters across the globe warrant. I am in direct contact with the folks at Friends Ugandan Safe Transport who coordinate the fundraising, but I decide the order in which folks are able to leave. As we speak now [when he wrote this in December] 10 have already been moved out of the country, and preparing to move to their final destinations.
Recently, I have also received nine women from a Catholic Church-founded college in western Uganda. The women, some of whom were in their final year of diploma study, were dismissed because the college administration investigated and found out that they engaged in “unnatural love”.
The fate of the women was so terrifying that they were not even able to retrieve their personal belongings. Unlike at the seminary where the dismissal process is done discreetly, at the college, it was done with the full knowledge of the entire college community. This attracted rage from other students who attempted an attack on the women. The women were saved by a passenger van driver who stopped at the signal of three girls by the roadside. The three had escaped a mob that was gradually building up. The mob was so angry that it became difficult to even discern what they were exactly shouting, except it was clear that they were to be attacked and beaten. No sooner had the three girls reached the passenger van terminal than their six colleagues joined them. It was then time for the women to plan very fast what their next move would be.
Staying in the college vicinity overnight was out of the question. The women could not make it to Kampala in one go and had to spend two nights in a town called Masaka.
It was while at Masaka that one of the women contacted her peer who had fled last year. All the women belonged to the Q-Hearts group whose membership of lesbian and bisexual women is widespread across the country in colleges and universities. The response from the former beneficiary of the evacuation is what eventually helped them contact me. They are now [in December] in hiding in two separate locations, awaiting the means to leave Uganda, and get on with their lives. Life in Uganda is now intolerable with their very lives at risk.
The women that have moved on praise the initiative of the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport who voluntarily raise funds from compassionate and kind-hearted people to support victims move to a safe country.
January 10, 2016 update: Conductor #1 now has 18 LGBT passengers with another 4 possibly joining them in hiding. They are waiting for funds from us to transport each person out of Uganda. It costs him $185 to get each person out of Uganda.
I am called Rosa M—-, 23yrs (but my friends call me ROM), because I was “born this way” and just different from the rest of the family members I was disowned at the age of 15yrs…. Reason!! I was a lesbian. To my father and mother this brought humiliation and shame to the family. To take you back, I was really loved by mother because I looked more like her late dad. That all came to an end when I innocently told my mother who I love. Hurriedly mother told my father about my sexual orientation and they organized a cleansing ceremony … okay call it ritual rape. The following weekend in the dead of the night, 6 energetic young men who had been selected pounced on me, they laughed as they took turns. I cried in pain and this gave them more gas to gruesomely rape me without any remorse. For almost 2 hours I cried and nobody cared what I was going through. I bled uncontrollably as they left me for dead. I was forced to drink some local herbs – and some herbs and ash was applied to my genitals to stop the bleeding. For almost 2 weeks I couldn’t walk but I survived and yes this didn’t change who I am and I was still attracted to fellow girls.
I weighed my options. Reporting the matter wasn’t going to change a thing. In fact it was like jumping from a frying pan to the fire.
I made a brave decision to take my life but something in me told me, why should I let the damn poor losers win because my mother wished me death. My father asked me to be straight or leave the village and the family home. I didn’t say a thing to him but before the sun rose the next morning I was 25 miles away from home, walking the dangerous jungles of the village. I made it to Mukono township, with little contacts or local knowledge I was on my own.
Fast forward I started living a life of crime, prostitution and drugs. One of my clients in the drug business had a phone which had access to Internet, on Googling I learnt of LGBTq Organizations which offered services to gay people. This changed my life forever. One organization I won’t mention had the approach which fitted well with my needs and I asked to become their member/client. I was taken in and enrolled in different support programs, life started making meaning.
This peace was short lived by passing of the anti-gay bill, even before it was signed into law, the locals were taking matters in their own hands, attacking any suspected gay person, these days many always go unreported.
As hundreds of gays were struggling to get out of Uganda, the Quakers under the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport extended a loving hand and support to many of us. Am I am proud to have benefited from this program.
I am happy and yes, now life has a meaning. Thanks so much, FUST.
Please send a donation to support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport so we can support the work of the amazing Ugandan conductors who help people like Rosa to escape the horror they face as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Uganda.
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Sending a check? Go here: http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/
Note: Contributions to Friends New Underground Railroad through Olympia Monthly Meeting (Olympia Friends Meeting) are tax-deductible. Olympia Monthly Meeting is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Cash and non-cash contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of applicable law. Our Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 94-3145171.
Rich shared these photos and wrote:
“Yes I am among the lucky ones. I decided to share these pictures as an expression of the appreciation i feel in my heart for all the passengers Friends Ugandan Safe Transport has helped to get freedom. Look at me am lucky, happy and now more hopeful.”
Please donate to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can continue to help LGBTQ people like Rich leave the dangers they face in Uganda and find new lives in more welcoming countries.
Click the button to the left to use PayPal or a credit or debit card.
To send a check see this page.
“I fell in love with Kim at 19, we struggled to be together as a couple but hate, discrimination and fears would not just allow us be.
“Then we connected with an Organization which was working with Friends Ugandan Safe Transport. After 3 months of hiding we were finally able to leave Uganda in the dead of the night. On crossing the border I knew the long search for freedom was finally visible.
“My heart breaks for the many LGBTq who are still stuck or can’t leave Uganda. More Organizations like FUST should stand up and be counted for the good cause”
Please donate to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can continue to help people like Tina and Kim leave the dangers they face in Uganda and find new lives in more welcoming countries.
Click the button to the left to use PayPal or a credit or debit card.
To send a check see this page.
“I would like to pass on my regards and love to all and everybody who works, volunteers, donates and supports Friends Ugandan Safe Transport.”
“To me FUST means love and they are the only reason am still alive. I was willing to take my life if I wasn’t helped out of Uganda.”
“I don’t like using the word hate, but as long as the state sponsored homophobia is still alive in Uganda, I don’t like Uganda.”
“Gabi, I remember that message you sent through the coordinator confirming that we shall be leaving in the night. I was the happiest dude on earth.”
“I am settling in well here in Kigali and am happy thanks to u.”
Please donate to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can continue to help people like Charlie to leave the dangers they face in Uganda and find new lives in more welcoming countries.
To send a check see this page.
A message on 05/04/15 from a Ugandan leader/conductor:
Many Ugandans think that if you are gay, you must be mental disturbed, evil, living with HIV/AIDS, a monster or a born criminal. The Ugandan government has done nothing to change the minds of people towards the gays. No wonder that several times when the gays are attacked, the law never takes its course. The gays have nowhere to run to in Uganda and all they can do is to flee the unforgiving treatment in Uganda.
If you are gay and open within Uganda, you must be living in the city, having enough security, well connected locally and internationally, traveled and exposed, protected and well-off. That way, you won’t be attacked because the Ugandan government knows that if you are attacked the International community will pass the blame onto the Ugandan government for failure to protect you but even still, you must know where to hang or live. Still you are not free, you can’t walk the streets freely or even getting a rental can be so hard. Uganda isn’t welcoming or a home to the gays.
It’s even so worse for our trans-brothers and sisters, a little mistake can expose them. Many trans people are living in hiding, can’t be free and every day they are at risk of being exposed, attacked and even killed. They live a life of total lack of access to opportunities.
That’s why when we opened our doors to help more transgenders flee, the number has been overwhelming. We have been having 38 transgenders on the waiting list in one month another 17 has begged and begged us to help them flee so they can start another life in another country.
We have 31 trans men and 24 trans women. It’s upon this background that am appealing to you to help us help our trans brothers and sisters flee.
A 05-12-15 Update:
After they were in hiding for well over a month and the situation was getting more and more critical for them, a transporter agreed to allow this conductor a short-term debt in order to move these 55 transgender people across a border to another country where they would be aided in finding new home countries to begin new lives. So this conductor group in Uganda now owes the transporter $52 x 55 = $2,860.00, and there was already a debt of $1359.30 to him for others transported in emergencies. So they need us to raise $4,219.30 to pay off their debt.
Another conductor we work with – in another part of Uganda – has had 16 lesbian nursing students in hiding, and we are sending money to transport 4 of them today, leaving 12. So we need to raise $2,220.00 to transport them out of Uganda.
Make a donation (CLICK HERE) to help us raise this current need of $6,439.30, and please spread the word about this important work!
As you may have noticed, we changed our name to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund. And in just over a year we have been in existence we have funded the cost of transporting 1065 people out of Uganda. Please support us to do more. The need is great.
A message from Meddie Mukasa, now living in Burundi:
“If anybody ignored the plight of the LGBTQ in Uganda, it could be a big mistake, in fact it will be like a crime against humanity. Every day I cry for the thousands of queers who are still stuck in Uganda and can’t leave. L, hope you are holding up good amidst challenges with almost no resources. Keep the faith and keep the hope.”
“Are FNUR and the Quakers still helping? Those guys rock. I am forever grateful to them. I found new love and am enrolling for a course in Beauty and styling, you know my passion. I am sending out some pictures to show am still alive and that I made it safely from Kigali to Bujumbura.”
Please make a donation to support the work of the Ugandans who are helping people like Meddie Mukasa.
A message from Shantal Mulembe:
“Hey dude, tsup? Ope u r cool, i finally got a job, with a tel communication company. My immediate boss and all my workmates know that am a lesbian, nobody judges anybody here. They just don’t mind and expect the best from me when it comes to working. Am in customer care, sometimes am in the call center. Guys I can’t thank you enough. I know without FNUR and the loving Quakers, I could be long dead and maybe even forgotten. Shit was tight in Uganda, I remember everything and how we escaped in the dead of the night. I could like to share some of my recent pictures with you guys. See how happy I look. Am free and am making new friends. Since am a lesbian Uganda is no longer home”
– Shantal Mulembe
Please donate to Friends New Underground Railroad so we can fund other LGBTQ people like Shantal. Thank you!
I am called Praise Wancha, born in Mbale Nkokonjeru. I lost both my Parents to HIV/AIDS when I was hardly a year old (so am told) so I was taken on by the little sisters of Saint Francis in an Orphanage they supported.
I was loved and appreciated, I didn’t know I was an Orphan till the age of 12. Though I had so many questions, I really never minded the answers, after all I had so many “mothers” around me who loved and cared for me so much.
One thing in life which really bothered me was that I never had a father figure, kids at school used to tell all sorts of stories about their fathers, well it was really hard for me to miss what I didn’t know.
As I grew into teenager hood, something was not strange but rather different, I was attracted to fellow girls. I tried fighting it and caused more pains in my heart. I was confident enough to go and openly tell one of the sisters about my internal struggles. The caring sister was so touched and she explained to me what it means, and she went ahead to tell me how such evil was trying to eat me up, to make me a lesbian. We prayed and we were in agreement with God that it will all be well.
Little did I know that I was being stalked and watched closely by all the sisters and the Mother Superior.
Despite my efforts to force my self to get attracted to boys in school, I failed, the more I tried the more I hate to even associate with boys within the high school.
This was hard for me, these internal struggles made my class grades and marks drop, to heal my self, I started becoming so stubborn and bullying other students and a tomboy.
Chance came my way when another girl who was different from other students joined our school, it didn’t take long for us to start dating, we even made agreements to start sharing a decker-bed. This landed us into trouble and just before our final exams we were both suspended.
The sisters weren’t impressed and I was put into isolation and asked to dedicate my self to a life of prayers, this made me become suicidal and I attempted to take my life on more than 3 attempts. Inside me, I came up with a plan to run away. I lied to one of the sisters that I wanted to go for confession to the father. The sisters were impressed, so I was allowed to go.
I never returned, I disappeared. This took me to a whole new world, a life of drugs, crime and scandals. This drew a lot of attention to me and my other fellow gals, so we decided to move to another town. We just kept on moving from one town to another. We risked so much. At 21 I looked as though I was an old woman of 50 yrs, drugs had taken a heavy stand on me, I accepted to seek for help. I did some little research and it landed me into the hands of one activist who changed my life. This man who has lived his life for others talked to me and he was the first person who made me feel that there is hope in life.
He worked with other volunteers to help me fight my drinking and drug problems, he had created safe spaces for lesbians and we socialized and even start thinking big, some of us were even enrolled into life skills training, where I learnt making baking. By 2013 I was making a living by baking cakes, I had both gay and straight clients.
But when the Ugandan government went harder on the gays, there was a lot of unrest within our community and when the radio stations started outing our names and addresses, Uganda wasn’t home after the president signed the AHB into law. Several of us went into hiding and by July of 2014 we had gotten help to leave Uganda, thanks to a rather little known Organization called FNUR. These guys rock despite all the criticisms they managed to save some of our lives without so much long waiting. They coordinated with people on the ground and we were transported out of Uganda.
Am now settled in Kigali Rwanda where am living my life, earning a living by making cakes for all sorts of events. Thanks FNUR for saving my life and God bless you all.
Please make a donation to support the work of Friends New Underground Railroad so that we can help other people like Praise Wancha.
Download Praise Wancha’s story in pdf format here.