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Q & A: ‘God Loves Uganda’

Posted on Nov 11, 2013
God Loves Uganda/Derek Wiesehahn

Missionaries Rachelle and Jesse Digges at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Mo.

By Emily Wilson

(Page 2)

EW: Why do you think they’re so focused on homosexuality?

RRW: I think for a lot of people who are really outspoken about homosexuality and fighting homosexuality, it’s about fighting your own internal demons. Jo Anna Watson, when she admitted to me in the film that she was attracted to women, I wasn’t surprised.  It’s like Lou admitting his obsession with pornography. Lou was best friends with Ted Haggard [an evangelical pastor who allegedly paid a masseur for sex]. You want to rally your followers to fight against something, and this works very well in Uganda. It’s easy to demonize a group of people as scapegoats and the symbol of evil. They’re obsessed with sexual sins. Sex sells, sex is sexy, people obsess over sex.

EW: What did you think about the young missionaries? What was their motivation

RRW: Everyone I got to know from the conservative fundamentalist community was really nice. I had demonized them, and they had demonized me. Those walls came down and we ended up hanging out and having meals together. The kids are sweet and well meaning and feel like they’re doing the right thing. It’s not them, it’s their leaders who have this master plan. The founder of IHOP, Mike Bickle, was on the ground with a bunch of faith leaders in 1979 to take that country as a Christian nation when Idi Amin fell. This is an experiment they’re doing in Uganda. They’ve rebuilt that country and they’ve built schools and leadership academies. It’s the youngest population on the planet and it was devastated. Amin was a Muslim; he outlawed evangelical Christianity; it had the highest AIDS rate on the continent—it was a perfect storm. There was a power vacuum, and they could come in and rebuild that country, and rebuild it as a Christian nation.

EW: In the movie you show the young missionaries visiting people in their homes with translators. Do the people ever ask them to leave?

RRW: This is why they love Uganda. It’s a Christian nation—it’s like 86 percent Christian, and people love and thank America for the support and especially the faith community in America because they helped rebuild that country and have done a lot of great work. America wasn’t the colonial power—it was Britain, and America represents power and wealth and fame. So Ugandans open their doors to Americans. That’s why when you see a 19-year-old girl talking to a woman three times her age, she’s listening. She’s like if I listen to you maybe I can get out of this situation. It’s like when that girl says to that woman, “I’ve come all this way across the ocean,” it’s like intimidation. It’s like, “I’ve come out of the sky.” That woman has probably never left that village. She’s telling her she’s come to bring this message and if she listens to the message, she not only will have eternal life, but her life will be better on earth.

EW: What has been the response to the film in Africa?

RRW: It’s been unbelievable. We were in Malawi, and we screened in Malawi for 80 faith leaders and 40 people from the LGBT community and the faith leaders were really angry and saying all the usual stuff about Sodom and Gomorrah, and this guy stood up and addressed the faith leaders and said, “I’m Malawian, and I was born this way. You’ve made my life miserable, if I could change, don’t you think I would?” They just listened. Then this woman came up and said, “I’m married with two children, and I love my children, but I don’t love my husband, and I live a lie because you are forcing me to live a lie. I’m a lesbian.” Then she called her girlfriend up and they kissed. Then people applauded and lined up to come out. It was the first time anyone came out in public in Malawi. This whole thing was broadcast on public radio in Malawi, and we were on the front of every newspaper in the country. 

Then last week we opened in [Washington] D.C., and the daughter of the former vice president of Uganda [Gilbert Bukenya], who’s running for president of Uganda, asked for a meeting with me. At 8 a.m. I met him in his hotel room. He was pro bill, and he was pro criminalization. I sat there with him and I couldn’t believe I was in this situation. He said, “Your film has really opened my eyes to how we’ve been manipulated by evangelicals. I’ve changed my views, and my daughter helped me change my views.” She was crying and she came to me after the screening and said, “I had no idea. I thought this was a choice.” He said, “I’d like to come out against the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda and for human rights. I’d love it if you could help me do that.” I said, “Aren’t you worried about your political career?” and he said, “Don’t worry about me. Africa must change and it must come from Africans.” So we’re going to do a whole campaign. You can’t ask for that—the power of film to change a law in a country and save lives? You can’t ask for more than that.

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