By Bruce Wilson (Cross Posted Talk2Action)
For many young Americans, the Westboro Baptist Church has become the face of extreme antigay hatred from the religious right; Mike Bickle’s Kansas City-based International House of Prayer, with its smooth pop-rock driven exterior, would seem almost the antithesis of Westboro Baptist. But today, Friday April 27th, 2012, IHOP is slated, according to a news release from ChristianNewsWire, to publicly screen a movie-length video featuring a Ugandan religious leader, Julius Peter Oyet, who has stated that “even animals are wiser than homosexuals.” and has openly called for practicing homosexuals to be hunted down and imprisoned or even executed.
Oyet even claims (see video at end of story) to have played a central role in a pending Ugandan bill, the internationally condemned Anti Homosexuality Bill, designed to make that happen; in a 2010 interview with French journalist Dominic Mesmin, Oyet stated that he had served on a committee that picked MP David Bahati to introduce the bill in Uganda’s parliament and had a special government commission to rally public support behind the bill, which has been internationally denounced – including by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hlllary Clinton.
Julius Oyet has also worked closely with Ugandan evangelist Martin Ssempa, a former close ally of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren. In 2010, after Warren had distanced himself, Ssempa subsequently became known for ostentatious incitement of antigay hatred that has included screening, in churches and other public venues, fringe gay pornography, in an attempt to convey the impression that coprophagia is a common homosexual practice.
In early 2011, Ssempa and Oyet co-presented to Uganda’s parliament a petition signed by millions of Ugandans calling for speedy passage of the Anti Homosexuality Bill. Julius Oyet has been consistent – in his interview with Dominic Mesmin, Oyet stated that he was able to rally millions of Ugandans behind the bill.
For his own part, IHOP founder Mike Bickle has stated that during the End-Times “Marriage as an institution will be forbidden in parts of the earth. As one of the signs of the times, the gay marriage agenda, which is rooted in the depths of hell – this is not about love, this is deception.”
These are far from IHOP’s only connections to the incitement of antigay hatred. One of the ministry co-directors of IHOP is Lou Engle, whose The Call ministry rents space from IHOP for its main base of operations. In May 2010, Engle brought his The Call to Uganda, to stage an event billed as fighting rampant immorality, including homosexuality, idolatry, and witchcraft.
Appearing at the event, held at one of the Ugandan capital Kampala’s biggest universities, were major supporters of the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill including prominent Ugandan evangelist Julius Oyet, who has ties to Uganda’s President and First Lady and declared from the stage:
“We call upon our parliament not to waste time. Uganda says no to homosexuality… our children today are being deceived by the West to buy them, to give them school fees, so that they can be homosexuals.”
Following Bishop Juius Oyet at the May 2010 The Call rally in Kampala, The Call founder Lou Engle told his Ugandan audience:
“We are not standing with violence or hatred to people in homosexual lifestyles. We are restraining, trying to restrain, an agenda that’s going to hurt the nation and hurt families. And so we have come here to join you, to pray that your government would have wisdom to uphold righteousness in this land.”
At the event journalist Sorious Samura, reporting for the BBC, asked Lou Engle “What do you think about supporting Julius Oyet’s fight against homosexuality here in Uganda?” Engle denied supporting the Anti Homosexuality Bill, telling Samura, “We’re not promoting the bill. We’re simply saying we believe that there needs to be a righteous stand, but there needs to be a revelation of Jesus in his mercy and kindness as well, in all that’s going on here.”
But when Samura questioned Julius Oyet, the Ugandan evangelist stated that “Lou Engle is a strong ally”. Samura then asked, “How do not feel that people like Lou, and American leaders, are withdrawing their support?” Oyet replied:
“To the media they may say that. But deep in their heart – as you hear him pray – what did he say? As he made his speech, what did he say? He said ‘Uganda, you are a key, you are standing now as a leader for righteousness’. That is support”.
Another speaker at the Uganda antigay rally, along with Lou Engle and Julius Oyet, was Ugandan evangelist John Mulinde – who has maintains a ministry base of operations in Southern Florida and gave a March 2011 sermon at Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer in Kansas City.
Mike Bickle, who has repeatedly prophesied coming “prison camps” and “death camps” for Jews, was one of the original prophets in an elite prophetic group in C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation. The NAR boasts many leaders in the vanguard of the fight against LGBT rights both in the U.S. and internationally. Lou Engle later joined the same prophetic body Bickle was an early member in, the Apostolic Council of Prophetic (ACPE).
An Unconventional War
The movie to be screened at Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer today is notable for reasons other than Julius Oyet’s starring role in the film. As Talk To Action contributor Rachel Tabachnick details in Joseph Kony’s Ugandan Victims Exploited in “Documentary” about Spiritual Warfare:
“An Unconventional War is one in a series of nine Transformationsmovies produced since 1999 by George Otis, a pioneer of the New Apostolic Reformation. In the film, a prayer movement led by Apostle Julius Oyet is credited with weakening Kony’s Lord Resistance Army (LRA) and ending a decades-long conflict in Uganda through “spiritual warfare in Jesus name.” The 2005 “documentary” claims that: 1) surviving youth were treated by deliverance of demons, 2) parents who prayed hardest got their children back first, and 3) the Acholi of Northern Uganda were fortunate to be forced into interment camps (by the Ugandan government) so they could hear the gospel and be shielded from Islam. Julius Oyet and President Yoweri Museveni are the godly heroes, representing “a unique church-state collaboration” against Kony, the demon-possessed villain.
According to this version of the conflict, Kony’s LRA was allowed by God to terrorize the Acholi people because they needed to repent of false beliefs. This is the story of Uganda presented as an advertisement for Christian supremacism.
All of these messages are tucked into a tear jerker with a happy ending about Kony’s young victims. The exploitation seen in this film and many other Western evangelical media productions, may help to explain why war-weary viewers threw stones at a screening of Kony 2012 in Lira in Northern Uganda this past week.
The Transformations Movies
The Transformations movies are part of a global attack on religious pluralism and secular democracy, promoted in the guise of prayer, charity, and social justice. The films can not be dismissed as emerging from the fringes, considering the evangelical pedigrees of the those involved. Throughout these movies, world leaders – including presidents, prime ministers and politicians – are filmed in interviews, with some actually participating in dramatic reenactments of past events.”
As a disturbing footnote, An Unconventional War was being filmed in Northern Uganda in 2005, around the time the co-founders of the Invisible Children nonprofit were shooting footage in Northern Uganda for one of their KONY videos.
This is notable because Northern Uganda was then sealed off by the Ugandan government – as Todd David Whitmore, a scholar at the Catholic University of Notre Dame who did research field work in Northern Uganda in 2005, “entry to northern Uganda required vetting by Lieutenant Colonel Shaban Bantariza, the Director of Public Relations and Information for the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF), the military wing of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government.”
During his research in Northern Uganda, according to Whitmore, he was given a typewritten letter, allegedly from now-Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to his half-brother Salim Saleh, outlining the need for a depopulation campaign to reduce the population of Northern Uganda, to open up access to the region’s rich farmland.
Whitmore describes an atmosphere of desperation in the Acholi concentration camps, and a ubiquitous presence of government spies keeping tabs on the few non-Ugandans who had been allowed into the region.
The relatively few academics and journalists who have investigated the question of how between one and two million Northern Ugandans from the Acholi tribe wound up in the displacement camps in the first place describe the Ugandan army as having used murder, torture, even outright shelling and strafing of Acholi villages to drive the Acholi into the euphemistically termed “displaced person” camps (concentration camps in reality) that were, in turn, so lightly guarded by the UPDF (which by some accounts seemed mainly concerning with keeping the Acholi imprisoned, not defending them) that the camps served to make the Acholi population easy prey for Joseph Kony’s LRA.
The Ugandan army, in turn, instituted a policy that Acholi found outside of the camps were to be considered enemy combatants and killed. Few provisions were made by the Ugandan government to provide food, clean water, shelter, or medical care so that, by the height of the conflict, an estimated 1,000 Acholi per week, out of the 1-2 million in the camps (estimates vary widely) were dying from the wretched camp conditions.
This is the horrific backdrop to the so-called “Invisible Children” presented in Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 videos, which have a number of disturbing parallels to An Unconventional War including the presentation of the role of the Ugandan government and army as a positive force in the conflict, and an emphasis on alleged occult powers possessed by LRA head Joseph Kony.
But An Unconventional War takes the narrative to an even more grotesque perspective, that the Acholi brought their suffering upon themselves, for having the wrong beliefs. As Tabachnick describes:
“As An Unconventional War comes to a close, the viewer is told that the Internal Displacement Camps that housed approximately 1.6 million Acholi after they were herded when forced from their villages, served a “redemptive purpose.”
“God has allowed them in come in the camps, whereby all of them can hear the word of God and come to Jesus Christ, and if we don’t use this window of opportunity, the Muslims are there. They’re eager to come and take them.” [The last phrase is accompanied with a scene of a mosque.]The narrator states that the mystery of the Acholi’s people’s suffering has been solved.
Narrator: The cause of her wound is no longer a mystery.
Apostle John Mulinde: There is a strong connection between the bloodshed and the witchcraft.
Apostle Julius Oyet: What God is saying is that rebellion and idolatry can separate you far from me.”
In his 2011 book Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda (Oxford University Press, Inc. 2011), on page 92 Professor Adam Branch describes the horrific backdrop to the Acholi concentration camps:
“In September 1996, the government began what would prove to be a policy of long-term mass forced displacement and internment in Acholiland. The UPDF drove hundreds of thousands of Acholi peasants out of their villages and into camps through a campaign of intimidation, murder, torture, and bombing and burning entire villages, as discussed in chapter 2. After the formation of the camps, the UPDF announced that anyone found outside of the camps would be considered a rebel and killed…
Forced displacement had devastating consequences for the interned civilians… with excess mortality levels reaching approximately 1,000 per week by the mid-2000s. Moreover, the camps were tragically unprotected, and accusations that the government soldiers failed to protect the camps, refused to respond to LRA incursions, and thus turned civilians into easy targets for the LRA, were heard regularly from camp inhabitants.
Despite a record of extreme anti-civilian violence by both sides, as explained in the last chapter, dominant international portrayals of the conflict have tended to cast it in unambiguous moral terms, celebrating the Ugandan government and demonizing the LRA. This portrayal has been in the interest of the Ugandan government and its Western donors, but it is also in the interests of aid agencies, as I explain in this chapter… aid agencies are able to collect funds through marketing the suffering of abducted children and pour aid in to support the Ugandan government’s military campaign, even as they absolve themselves of the need to be accountable for the consequences of their actions. The irony, of course, is that the internment camps were, by far, the greatest cause of children’s-and adults’-suffering in Northern Uganda and, if anything, made abductions by the LRA easier.”