In just over one week, Pope Francis will begin an apostolic voyage to Uganda, Kenya, and the Central African Republic. where homosexuality is culturally disapproved, and, in the first two nations, is illegal.
New Ways Ministry is relaunching our #PopeSpeakOut campaign to encourage Francis to publicly oppose the criminalization of, discrimination towards, and violence against LGBT communities. His pastoral visit is the perfect opportunity to do so.
#PopeSpeakOut was initially launched in 2014, following Pope Francis’ appeal for solidarity in his World Day of Peace message, to save LGBT lives. This campaign uses Twitter to send messages (tweets) to the pope (his Twitter handle: @pontifex) to speak out for LGBT human rights. More information on how to send tweets and other electronic messages, with samples of what to say, can be found by clicking here.
Pope Francis’ voice and moral authority on a global level have only grown in the time since. A clear condemnation of social and legal structures which harm LGBT people across the world and especially in Uganda and Kenya which criminalize homosexual people, would send a clear message that the Catholic Church truly does not approve of or tolerate discrimination and violence against sexual and gender diverse minorities. The pope should affirm the following:
- Catholic teaching does not support the criminalization of sexual orientation/gender identity and all such laws should be repealed;
- Each and every instance of discrimination and violence against LGBTQI people is morally wrong and should be opposed vigorously;
- Western nations are not withholding foreign aid based on a recipient nation’s recognition of same-sex relationships, despite what the Synod on the Family’s final report claims.
Already, a multilingual petition has generated 100,000 signatures asking Pope Francis to condemn homophobia and transphobia. You can sign it at Change.org by clicking here.
Despite the dangers that being openly gay or lesbian entails in Uganda, and despite rumors that this nation’s Parliament is considering new legislation to stifle human rights work, a Pride celebration in went on as planned there this summer. You can view images of it here.
Despite the bleak picture, there are some signs of progress , too. A Ugandan presidential candidate, while clearly opposing same-sex marriage, did attack homophobia as wrong earlier this year. Advocates like Dr. Frank Mugisha, a Catholic who is executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda whose work you can read about in a PinkNews article, are continuing to seek justice and equality. International allies must add our voices to these efforts by encouraging Pope Francis’ to speak out against repression.
Pope Francis’ agenda during his first African excursion is packed. Central African Republic is engulfed in a brutal civil war, and a refugee camp is on the pope’s itinerary, which will surely be a moving experience to witness. Questions of inter-religious cooperation, regional security, and human development will be at the forefront of discussion since they strongly affect a continent where Christianity is growing rapidly.
That said, for a pope exhorting the church to go to the margins, LGBT lives should not be negligible. Even a brief remark during his several planned speeches would go a long way to doing some good. Even better would be a call for sexual and gender human rights during a homily at Mass. Most importantly, he needs to educate the bishops in these countries that it is their obligation as pastors and leaders to protect the rights and lives of LGBT people. Anything the pope says positively would reverberate around the globe. Francis has been too silent on this issues. It is time for the pope to speak out!
Pope Francis touches down in Kenya in less than ten days, which is enough time for you, other Catholics, and others concerned with LGBT human rights to appeal to Pope Francis for a message of solidarity–and more than that, an appeal to save LGBT lives. To take action with #PopeSpeakOut and add your voice, click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry