In Africa, An Archbishop Promotes and a Cardinal Decries LGBT Human Rights

July 10, 2013

Over the past week or so there has been some good news and some bad news out of Africa concerning Catholic LGBT issues.

Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo

Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo

On the good news side, a papal envoy to Kenya recently called for the protection of lesbian and gay human rights on a visit to that nation to open a new pastoral center.  Kenya’s The Star newspaper reports:

“The pope’s representative to Kenya Charles Daniel Balvo has asked Kenyans to accord homosexuals respect, dignity and human rights and not discriminate against them.

“Speaking after commissioning a Sh400 million pastoral centre at the Embu Catholic Cathedral in Embu town, Balvo said the Catholic Church does not approve of homosexuality but it recognises the dignity of every individual.

” ‘The homosexuals should be defended against violation of their dignity and human rights, they are human beings like anyone of us,’ he said.”

The newspaper article notes that these words from a papal envoy come soon after many African religious leaders criticized U.S. President Obama’s recent trip to Africa where he spoke in favor of LGBT human rights.  A Religion News Service  article quotes Obama as saying:

“My basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you … people should be treated equally. And that’s a principle that I think applies universally.”

Cardinal John Njue

Cardinal John Njue

One of those religious leaders speaking against Obama was a cardinal from Kenya.  London’s Tablet magazine reports:

“Kenyan Cardinal John Njue has issued a strongly worded riposte to US President Barack Obama’s call for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Africa.

“At the start of his three-nation African tour in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, on 28 June, Mr Obama said gays deserved equal rights. Homosexual acts are illegal in 38 African nations.

“Speaking in Nairobi the next day, Njue, president of the Kenyan bishops’ conference, said Obama, whose father was Kenyan, should forget the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

” ‘Let him forget and forget and forget … I think we need to act according to our own traditions and our faiths,’ said Njue. ‘Those people who have already ruined their society … let them not become our teachers to tell us where to go.’ “

Obviously, Cardinal Njue is unaware that the Catholic faith’s most authoritative traditions are on the side of protecting LGBT human rights, as Archbishop Balvo stated.    The Religion News Service article also quotes Anglican, Lutheran, and Muslim religious leaders who similarly condemned Obama’s intervention.   The article also notes:

“Homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries, according to the Washington-based Council for Global Equality, and many religious leaders here view it as contrary to scriptures and custom.”

Prominent among those nations is Zimbabwe, headed by Robert Mugabe, a Catholic, whose homophobic rants we reported on recently.  On the campaign trail for re-election, he is continuing to spew anti-gay vitriol, some of which can be read here.  For stories of the reality of gay lives under Zimbabwean terror,  I refer you to the blog 76Crimes.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Papal Candidate Turkson Continues to Reveal Anti-Gay Attitudes

February 20, 2013
Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson

One of the names that is being bandied about as a prime candidate to become the next pope is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.  As his name has surfaced, so too have reports that this African cardinal has a strong record of anti-gay attitudes.

His most recent comments accused gay priests for causing the sex-abuse crisis.  According to London’s Daily Mail:

“The African cardinal widely tipped to be the first black pope in modern history faced a firestorm of criticism last night after he laid the blame for clerical sex abuse crises at the feet of gay priests.

“Cardinal Peter Turkson, who comes from Ghana, told an American journalist that similar sex scandals would never convulse churches in Africa because the culture was inimical to homosexuality.

” ‘African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,’ he told Christiane Amanpour of CNN.

” ‘Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind, are not countenanced in our society,’ he continued.

” ‘So that cultural taboo, that tradition has been there,’ said Cardinal Turkson, 64. ‘It has served to keep it out.’ “

You can view the video of the Turkson interview with CNN’s Amanpour here.

Turkson made headlines last week when it was revealed that he supported Uganda’s draconian penalties for homoesexuality.  According to John Becker, writing on The Billerico Report blog:

“. . .Turkson is so anti-gay that he actually defended draconian laws that criminalize homosexuality and gay sex, including Uganda’s notorious ‘Kill the Gays’ bill. Speaking last year to the National Catholic Register, Turkson opined that while the penalties imposed by such laws are ‘exaggerated,’ the desire of many Africans and African leaders to incarcerate or even execute their gay citizens is actually perfectly understandable, and that the ‘intensity of the reaction [to homosexuality] is probably commensurate with tradition.’ “

Turkson also added:

“Just as there’s a sense of a call for rights, there’s also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people. So, if it’s being stigmatized, in fairness, it’s probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized.”

Becker cites another example of Turkson’s anti-gay attitudes:

“In January 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered an address to the African Union Summit in which he called on African nations to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality and end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; the Secretary-General said that doing so was the only way to live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Cardinal Turkson rebuked him:

‘We [the Church] push for the rights of prisoners, the rights of others, and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called “an alternative lifestyle,” are those human rights? [Ban Ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.’ “

Clearly, Turkson is not the right man for the top job.  While many church leaders have, through their comments, revealed their ignorance of LGBT reality, few have done so as boldly as Turkson has.  Let’s hope and pray that the old adage about papal conclaves comes true in his case:  “He who enters the conclave a pope comes out a cardinal.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Brother Cited as Founder of Kenya’s LGBT Community

October 2, 2012

 

 

A Catholic religious brother is credited for having started Kenya’s burgeoning LGBT community.

Denis Nzioka

In a recent article on allAfrica.com, the writer surveys the great progress this African nation has made in regard to LGBT people and organizations.  The writer, Denis Nzioka, a leading Kenyan LGBT advocate and editor of Identity Kenya, proclaims:

“Change is here. Visit any town in Kenya and, if you know where to look, you will not miss a pub, clinic, youth center, church yard, school or social hall where gays and lesbians meet to relax or discuss issues of concern to them. . . .

“Four years ago, it would have been unimaginable that public participation of gay people, at least ‘out’ ones, would be possible. Fast forward to a few months before elections under the new constitutional dispensation and what does my magic orb say? Gays are out there and they are not afraid. We had the first ever openly gay politician to declare interest in a political office. He joins the other 15 per cent of ‘not open’ gays, lesbians we have in the current parliament who will be seeking re-election next year. There is debate – most of it negative – on gay political candidature but people have missed the point: It is not winning the gay politicians are after. It is about making a statement.”

Most interesting is Nzioka’s explanation of the genesis of the Kenyan movement:

“I remember when the first gay group was formed by a Catholic brother at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi in 1997. Being the oldest daughter, as they say, the group saw tough times, learnt things the hard way and managed to survive up to now. Brother Daimo, who started the first group – Ishtar – under the noses of senior Catholic clerics in Nairobi would blush if he saw the now close to 50 regional gay, lesbian and transgender groups we have all over Kenya. Visit any town in Kenya – and if you know where to look – you will not miss a pub, clinic, youth center, church yard, school or social hall – where gays, lesbians are meeting to discuss health, human rights, economic empowerment, etc. Why, you may ask, do they not meet on ‘gay’ issues? It is because being gay comes second to a decent meal, access to education and eradicating poverty. Yet, these members are all similar – the only thing straight about them is how they take their vodka.”

Nzioka’s comment on Brother Daimo is tempered by the fact that Christianity still fuels the homophobia which still exists in this nation.  He states:

“Homophobia is rife in schools as I found out when applying at a Christian university that flatly refused me admission on account of being openly gay. The comments by an Anglican bishop that gays are worse than terrorists show that religion is still playing hard ball. Instead of focusing on spiritual orientation, they are busy focusing on sexual orientation.”

Still, it should be a proud moment for Catholics to know that one of Kenya’s foremost gay advocates credits a Catholic religious brother with starting the movement in his nation.   It shows the power that so many of our own country’s Catholics can have as they gather in their parish support groups and discuss the intersection of their faith and their sexuality.   Who knows what good can happen from humble beginnings?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Cameroon Archbishop Issues Inflammatory Anti-Gay Statement

August 20, 2012

 

Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot

The Catholic archbishop of Yaounde, Cameroon, has made anti-gay statements just the week before the African nation stages a national anti-gay rallying day.

Gay Star News reports that Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot made his comments last week:

“The Catholic Archbishop of Yaoundé stated last weekthat he believes homosexuality is opposed to the ideal of human reproduction and is a danger to the family unit, ‘an affront to the family, enemy of women and creation.’

“He argued that the Catholic Church preaches the virtues of tolerance towards gay people, paedophiles, bestiality and other perversions, which he lumps together.

“But he says: ‘This does not mean that Catholic morality endorse homosexual behaviour and the life style that it inspires.’

“For him homosexuality is ‘shameful, a disrespectful criticism of God who has chosen to create man and woman’.

The original French-language news report upon which the Gay Star News account is based can be accessed here.

The archbishop’s comments come as the nation anticipates a national rally in Cameroon designed to promote anti-gay sentiment on August 21st.  A separate Gay Star News story describes the event:

“The Rassemblement de la Jeunesse Camerounaise association (Cameroonian Youth Rally, or RJC) announced that it will ‘celebrate’ a gay hate day. . .

“The association doesn’t want to hear about gay pride, instead it announced on Thursday (12 July) that 21 August will be ‘celebrated’ as the national anti-gay day of Cameroon. . .

The existence and combat of the alleged ‘gay mafia’ is one of the principal concerns of the RJC which proudly announces its homophobia publicly.

“The association promises that 21 August, will be celebrated yearly, stating it aims to glorify homophobia with a parade to take place through the Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital city.

“During a recent televised debate, Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka, spokesperson for the RJC, stated that ‘homosexuality is a crime against humanity.’

“There are no official association to help LGBT people in Cameroon, which has one of Africa’s most severe anti-gay laws.”

Vatican officials are quick to correct bishops and other church leaders when they present a “too liberal” view of church teaching on homosexuality.  The pope should at least be equally strict in correcting this archbishop, whose rhetoric distorts church teaching and has the potential for promoting violence in such an inflammatory situation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement

July 25, 2012

A new report from a Boston-based political research group identifies the key conservative U.S.-based Christian organizations that are supporting the anti-gay movement in Africa, including the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

Political Research Associates yesterday released their report, “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa,” and identifies a key Catholic organization, Human Life International, as one of the key players in supporting anti-gay activity.

According to an Associated Press report in The Boston Herald:

“The report’s main author, the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, said that while such evangelical groups are in the minority in the United States, they are able to punch way above their weight in Africa, where many oppose homosexuality. Here, many believe the religious right’s contentions that gay men are ‘recruiting’ in schools, Kaoma said.

” ‘Those kind of lies, when presented in Africa, become factual, so we need to worry that they are misleading people with these lies,’ Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, said in a telephone interview from Boston.

“And conservative groups have access to powerful politicians, including the presidents of many countries.

“Kaoma’s report identifies groups belonging to a loose network of right-wing charismatic Christians. They include Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Catholic Church’s Human Life International (HLI) and the Mormon-led Family Watch International. All have launched or expanded offices in Africa over the past five years. . . .

Rev. Kapya Kaoma

” ‘By hiring locals as office staff, ACLJ and HLI in particular hide an American-based agenda behind African faces, giving the Christian Right room to attack gender justice and (the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people) as a neocolonial enterprise imposed on Africans and obstructing meaningful critique of the U.S. right’s activities,’ the report said.

“Anti-gay laws passed in Burundi in 2009, Malawi in 2010 and Nigeria in 2011.

“Uganda’s so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ law, which would levy the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ was thought to have been defeated after Kaoma and Political Research Associates exposed the legislation’s American instigators in 2009. But it was reintroduced in Uganda’s Parliament this February.”

Bondings 2.0 attended a teleconference yesterday with Rev. Kaoma and Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the recipient of the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.   Kaoma and Mugisha elaborated on the role of the Catholic church in these activities.

“It’s not true that they [Roman Catholics] are not involved,” said Rev. Kaoma, noting that Human Life International has good relationships with the Catholic hierarchy. “Together with Anglican archbishops, certain Roman Catholics demanded the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda be passed.”

Frank Mugisha

Mugisha noted that the Catholic archbishop in Uganda did ask that the death penalty be removed from the bill, but that the Catholic Church still has not taken an official position on whether the bill should be passed.

“In Uganda, they [Roman Catholic Institution] haven’t stepped up to say anything or challenge the bill,” Mugisha said.  He added that in fact, the Catholic bishops have joined with other Christian groups to support the bill.

Rev. Kaoma also noted that the Ugandan Catholic bishops had a hand in inviting Ed Silvoso of the International Transformation Network, a reparative therapy group, to speak at a conference in Africa.

At the conclusion of the teleconference, it was suggested that the best way that people of faith in Western countries can help the African situation is to ask their church’s leaders to make public statements against the anti-gay legislation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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Previous Bondings 2.0 posts on Uganda:

June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 11. 2012: Uganda’s Catholic Bishops Reverse Their Stance to Support Anti-Homosexual Bill

March 29, 2012: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 4, 2012: When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

December 26, 2011: Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations

December 23, 2011: A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen

 

 

 


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