Archbishop Tells Africa Homosexuality is a Human Rights Issue, Will American Culture War Exporters Listen?

During a working visit to Zambia on June 29, the head of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, showed true global leadership when he reportedly told Zambian journalists and Christians what they may not have wanted to hear. “Homosexuality is a global issue,” the Archbishop said. “We need to treat others with respect and dignity. It is a human rights issue… there is need to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

For those who don’t know Archbishop Welby, he belongs to an Evangelical Wing of the Anglican Church, and is a highly respected leader in the evangelical community. In American Culture Warriors in Africa, I explain that unlike his predecessor, Rowan William, Archbishop Welby met with African leaders of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)—founded by American Conservatives opposed to LGBTQ advances in the Episcopal Church—on October 20, 2013,following the Westgate Mall bombing of September 2013, and again just before the official GAFCON (October 21-26) in Nairobi, Kenya. After leaving Kenya, he sent a video message to GAFCON participants explaining his absence at the conference. Part of his message addressed the issue of human sexuality. “We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one,” he told the participants. “How we respond rightly to that, in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious, is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel.” Anti-LGBTQ Archbishops of Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria and their counterparts in the United States—the very bishops U.S.-based pastor of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren, has long been working with in both African and here in the U.S. to promote and extend the culture wars—misinterpreted the Archbishop Welby’s words as endorsements of their anti-gay position.

This time, however, the Archbishop made it very clear—the issue of human sexuality is a human rights issue. His words attracted the attention of conservative pastors.

Addressing the local media, Rev. Pukuta Mwanza, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, rebutted the Archbishop’s message and instead of heeding the calls for love and tolerance, encouraged sexual minorities to “cure” their homosexuality through prayers and counseling.

The Archbishop’s courageous words came at the time when Zambians were awaiting the ruling on a same-sex couple James Mwape and Phillip Mubiana, who were pulled from their home and arrested on charges of being homosexual in May, 2013. After spending over a year in jail, subjected to dehumanizing “medical tests” such as forced anal examinations by the state, the court finally ruled on July 3, 2014, that the state did not prove beyond doubt that Mwape and Mubiana had engaged in same-sex sexual relations.

James and Phillip’s acquittal also brought to the foreground what many Africans believe, thanks to the propaganda spread by U.S. conservatives who travel to their countries, that LGBTQ people are foreign to Africa.

“We, the Youths of Zambia Say No to Gay Rights,” and “Abash Homosexuality, —Leave Zambia,” were some of signs seen outside the courtroom the day of the acquittal. At the same time, the presence of family members of the couple—particularly Phillip’s grandmother, who courageously stood by her grandson—proved the Archbishop’s point, that persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is not a political issue; it is a moral issue; it is a human rights issue. It is time to stop playing politics with human lives. We all have the moral responsibility to stand up and be counted—gay rights are human rights! The Archbishop’s example is commendable, for religious leaders to hide behind diplomacy when human lives are being destroyed is a betrayal of our sacred calling.

Moreover, the persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is defended by the myth that they can somehow be “cured.” Alan Chambers, the American Evangelical leader who made his career claiming he could “cure” homosexuality, was one of the Speakers at the Evangelical Lausanne Conference in Cape Town in 2010, and whose presentation was later deleted from the Lausanne website. Yet although he later retracted his claims, and apologized for ever claiming that sexual orientation could be altered, African politicians and pastors are busy repeating these made-in-the-USA lies.

Let the sacred truth be said, LGBTQ persons are human beings with fundamental human rights to be protected and defended. To deny these rights is to dehumanize and harm ourselves. As the Archbishop said, this is a global issue, and it deserves a global response. As Africa’s problems multiply, LGBTQ persons have become the easiest scapegoat at political gatherings for African politicians eager to turn public attention away from issues of corruption or economic inequality. And some local religious leaders, who receive funding from these American culture warriors, then celebrate such demonization as courageous leadership.

Global religious institution such as the Anglican Communion and the Vatican need to speak out against such atrocities—failure to do so is to sanction the persecution and discrimination our fellow human beings, and a sin.

The Archbishop refused to separate our common humanity into camps—“us” (heterosexuals) and “them” (homosexuals). He did not say one thing in Africa, only to turn around and deny it to a Western audience (as did Saddleback pastor Rick Warren); he did not condemn the decriminalization of African sexual minorities to a Western audience only to allow local African clergy to support anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda and Nigeria (as the Vatican has done). He defended our common humanity, calling on all people to respect the dignity of every individual regardless of the person’s sexual orientation.

The story of the Good Samaritan is critical here. The Archbishop of Canterbury has done his part. Will Pope Francis, Bill Graham, and Rick Warren follow suit? I hope so!

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PRA Discusses American Culture Warriors in Africa on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

PRA had the opportunity this last week to work with HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, discussing the U.S.-based conservative evangelicals who are responsible for exporting the culture wars to Uganda and other African nations. Watch it below!

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John Oliver

HISTORIC: African Commission Acknowledges Need to Protect LGBTI People

The African Commission on People's Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights meets in Nigeria. Image via fiacat.org

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has taken a major step toward protecting the rights of LGBTI people by adopting a resolution condemning violence against individuals based on their “real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Established by the African Charter in 1987, the Commission consists of 11 members elected by the AU Assembly, and is officially charged with three major functions:

  • the protection of human and peoples’ rights
  • the promotion of human and peoples’ rights
  • the interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

In keeping with these commitments, during its 55th session held in Angola earlier this month, the ACHPR acknowledged the need to respond to the ongoing human-rights violations experienced by LGBTI people (documented and explained thoroughly in Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma’s new book, American Culture Warriors in Africa)  through the adoption of this historic resolution.

It’s impossible to stop that which is unseen. When we fail to acknowledge the existence of sexual minorities, transgender people, and intersex people, their oppression, too, remains invisible. By recognizing that the violence experienced by LGBTI people is real and distinct, the ACHPR has taken a major step forward in the fight for LGBTI safety, respect, and justice in Africa.

Many conservative lawmakers and faith leaders in Africa—urged on by their U.S.-based conservative benefactors—will undoubtedly argue that this resolution is part of some imagined international “gay agenda” to create new, special rights for LGBTI people. But the ACHPR has simply affirmed that the application of existing human rights standards should also apply to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex. The work of ensuring the protection of human rights for all people is not a zero-sum game—addressing human-rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity takes nothing away from the ongoing efforts to combat discrimination based on race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, and other grounds. In a 2012 report, ARC International observed, “There can be no hierarchies of rights, and it is our common duty to ensure that no person faces violations of their human rights on any grounds, including because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “It is not called the ‘Partial’ Declaration of Human Rights. It is not the ‘Sometimes’ Declaration of Human Rights. It is the Universal Declaration, guaranteeing all human beings their basic human rights, without exception.”

See the entire text of this historic document below:

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ACHPR Resolution on LGBTI People


Related:

American Culture Warriors Book CoverAmerican Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism is a new, popular-format guidebook designed to educate U.S. audiences and motivate all people of conscience to take action that interrupts the persecution of women and sexual minorities overseas.

Details Here

Homosexuality is Not Un-African

It is legalized homophobia, not same-sex relations, that is alien to Africa

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law  - James Akena/Reuters

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law – James Akena/Reuters

Guest post by Sylvia Tamale, professor of law at Makerere University in Uganda:

During a prime time interview with BBC’s “Hard Talk” show in March 2012, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni noted, “Homosexuals in small numbers have always existed in our part of black Africa …They were never prosecuted. They were never discriminated.”

Earlier this year, confronted by internal and external pressure, Museveni reversed himself and signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the full glare of the media — declaring that homosexuality was Western-imposed. Before signing the law, Museveni asked a team of top-notch Ugandan scientists to help him make an educated decision. The panel’sreport did not mince words: “In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies.”

Museveni’s bizarre actions can only be interpreted as a political ploy ahead of presidential elections scheduled for early 2016. Having been at the helm since 1986, Museveni faces serious competition both within and outside his party, not to mention a restless population afflicted by a high cost of living, unemployment and a general disgust with rampant corruption. By the stroke of a pen, Museveni succumbed to populist pressures and condemned an otherwise law-abiding sexual minority to maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Uganda is not alone in its anti-gay crusade. Nigeria recently passed a law criminalizing homosexuality. Several other African countries — including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Sierra Leone — have all expressed the desire to emulate Uganda and Nigeria. At least 38 African countries already proscribe consensual same-sex behavior.

The sad, tired but widely accepted myth that homosexuality is un-African has been valorized and erected on the altar of falsehood time after time. It is a myth that has been played out in numerous contexts, most recently over the debate on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. However, historical facts demand that this fable be debunked once and for all.

African sexualities

The ‘homosexuality is un-African’ myth is anchored on an old practice of selectively invoking African culture by those in power. African women are familiar with the mantra. “It is un-African” whenever they assert their rights, particularly those rights that involve reproductive autonomy and sexual sovereignty.

The mistaken claim that anything is un-African is based on the essentialist assumption that Africa is a homogeneous entity. In reality, however, Africa is made up of thousands of ethnic groups with rich and diverse cultures and sexualities. As appealing as the notion of African culture may be to some people, no such thing exists. Moreover, even if we wanted to imagine an authentic African culture, like all others, it would not be static.

African history is replete with examples of both erotic and nonerotic same-sex relationships. For example, the ancient cave paintings of the San people near Guruve in Zimbabwe depict two men engaged in some form of ritual sex. During precolonial times, the “mudoko dako,” or effeminate males among the Langi of northern Uganda were treated as women and could marry men. In Buganda, one of the largest traditional kingdoms in Uganda, it was an open secret that Kabaka (king) Mwanga II, who ruled in the latter half of the 19th century, was gay.

The vocabulary used to describe same-sex relations in traditional languages, predating colonialism, is further proof of the existence of such relations in precolonial Africa. To name but a few, the Shangaan of southern Africa referred to same-sex relations as “inkotshane” (male-wife); Basotho women in present-day Lesotho engage in socially sanctioned erotic relationships called “motsoalle” (special friend) and in the Wolof language, spoken in Senegal, homosexual men are known as “gor-digen” (men-women). But to be sure, the context and experiences of such relationships did not necessarily mirror homosexual relations as understood in the West, nor were they necessarily consistent with what we now describe as a gay or queer identity.

Same-sex relationships in Africa were far more complex than what the champions of the “un-African” myth would have us believe. Apart from erotic same-sex desire, in precolonial Africa, several other activities were involved in same-sex (or what the colonialists branded “unnatural”) sexuality. For example, the Ndebele and Shona in Zimbabwe, the Azande in Sudan and Congo, the Nupe in Nigeria and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi all engaged in same-sex acts for spiritual rearmament — i.e., as a source of fresh power for their territories. It was also used for ritual purposes. Among various communities in South Africa, sex education among adolescent peers allowed them to experiment through acts such as “thigh sex” (“hlobonga” among the Zulu, “ukumetsha” among the Xhosa and “gangisa” among the Shangaan).

It is ironic that an African dictator wearing a three-piece suit, caressing an iPhone, speaking in English and liberally quoting the Bible can dare indict anything for being un-African.

In many African societies, same-sex sexuality was also believed to be a source of magical powers to guarantee bountiful crop yields and abundant hunting, good health and to ward off evil spirits. In Angola and Namibia, for instance, a caste of male diviners — known as “zvibanda,” “chibados,” “quimbanda,” gangas” and “kibambaa” — were believed to carry powerful female spirits that they would pass on to fellow men through anal sex.

Even today, marriages between women for reproductive, economic and diplomatic reasons still exist among the Nandi and Kisii of Kenya, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan and the Kuria of Tanzania. Like elsewhere around the world, anal intercourse between married opposite-sex partners to avoid pregnancy was historically practiced by many Africans before the invention of modern contraceptive methods.

Clearly, it is not homosexuality that is un-African but the laws that criminalized such relations. In other words, what is alien to the continent is legalized homophobia, exported to Africa by the imperialists where there had been indifference to and even tolerance of same-sex relations. In Uganda such laws were introduced by the British and have been part of our penal law since the late 19th century. The current wave of anti-homosexuality laws sweeping across the continent is therefore part of a thinly veiled and wider political attempt to entrench repressive and undemocratic regimes.

Alien to Africa

Equally alien to the continent are the Abrahamic religions (particularly Christianity and Islam) that often accompany and augment the “un-African” arguments against homosexuality. African traditional religions were (and still are) integrated into the people’s holistic and everyday existence. It was intricately tied to their culture, including sexuality.

With the new religions, many sexual practices that were acceptable in precolonial, pre-Islamic and pre-Christian Africa were encoded with tags of “deviant,” “illegitimate” and “criminal” through the process of proselytization and acculturation. It is ironic that an African dictator wearing a three-piece suit, caressing an iPhone, speaking in English and liberally quoting the Bible can dare indict anything for being un-African.

The struggle to win full citizenship for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex groups is global. Even in countries where homosexuality has been decriminalized, the consciousness of the majority has yet to catch up with reformed laws. In order to completely dispel homophobia from Africa, we may have to employ radically new methods of advocacy that resonate with African philosophies such as Ubuntu. This concept encompasses many values — humaneness, solidarity, interdependence, compassion, respect and dignity. It rejects selfish, paternalistic and restrictive regulations issued by rulers riding high moral horses in complete disregard of the interests of their neighbors, their community and their fellow human beings.

The late Nelson Mandela described this philosophy as “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others, that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”

The homosexuality-is-un-African mantra negates everything that African history and tradition has transmitted to posterity. A tenet of African philosophy holds that “I am because you are.” In short, it matters little about the differences that each one of us displays but much about the essence of humanity that binds us together. What really matters is the respect for human dignity and diversity.

**Originally published on Al Jazeera America. Republished with the author’s permission. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of PRA**

Beyond Lively & Warren: U.S. Conservative Legal Groups Changing African Law to Persecute Sexual Minorities & Women

ACLJ ADF

While the exposure of the direct involvement of U.S. conservative culture warriors like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren in draconian anti-gay laws in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria has put many in the Religious Right on the defensive, there are many other leaders in the movement to export the U.S. culture wars who have largely remained incognito. As more African nations move to pass anti-gay laws, there is a need to reflect on the role U.S. conservative legal groups have played on the continent.

In September 2009, for example, leaders from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund), and Advocate International—the conservative legal group that claims to “protect religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family”—presented seminars at “Be Transformed: Steering the African Continent to Righteousness, Justice and Peace by Renewing our Minds,” a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sam Casey, ADF’s founder and General Counsel for U.S. Right Wing Advocates International, and Jeffery Ventrella, Senior Vice-President of Strategic of Training at ADF were plenary speakers. Ventrella spoke about “Religious Freedom, the Homosexual Agenda and Advocacy,” capitalizing on the popular attack on LGBTQ people that the secret overarching agenda of the push for equality for sexual minorities is to “recruit” young children.

What makes the involvement of these well-funded American organizations worrisome is their focus on the legal aspect of the persecution and imprisonment of LGBTQ people, and their well-orchestrated collaboration with other foes of LGBTQ justice. The Alliance Defending Freedom’s involvement in Africa immediately follows that of American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ – founded by Pat Robertson), which helped draft the successfully-passed 1996Defense of the Marriage Act (DOMA)—which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “unconstitutional” in June, 2013.

The ACLJ has setup offices around the world, and in Africa operates under the name “East African Center for Law and Justice” in Kenya, and the “Africa Center for Law and Justice” in Zimbabwe. Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s Executive Director, asserted that his organization assists Africans to “uphold pro-life and pro-family values.” ACLJ, he continued, “has partnered with Africans in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and has been doing great work in Africa now for years.” Behind these U.S. conservative groups’ agenda—ACLJ, ADF, and Advocates International—is an attempt to export U.S. culture wars to Africa, falsely claiming that they are authentic and original African values.

Wherever these groups work, their impact is the same: increased persecution of LGBTQ persons and the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Just as European missionaries transformed African culture and values on the premise of religion, these organizations are doing the same. For example, during the 2009 Advocates International conference, Sam Casey, addressed the issue of reproductive health in a speech entitled “Protecting Life: An International Status Report.” Three years later, just after the Rwandan government ratified Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,  in which African governments committed themselves to ensure women’s health and reproductive rights (including safe abortions), Casey traveled to Rwanda to urge Rwandans to “join together to form a nationwide pro-life movement built around the San Jose Articles. … In consultation with Heartbeat International, Human Life International or Life International,” Casey wrote, Rwandans must introduce a “pregnancy resource center” to provide conservative counseling, and pregnancy diagnosis, which would inform “women about the health risks of all their options, including the induced abortions.”

Like the American Center for Law and Justice, the U.S.-based Human Life International operates in Africa. Where no African had yet signed onto the San Jose Articles, these groups aimed to turn Africa into a U.S. conservative-modeled continent by recasting the Maputo Protocol as un-African.

But while they find it easy to win over Africans on homosexuality, generally, African nations tend to be more open to women’s health and reproductive rights. In his Mission Report to Namibia in 2010, Human Life International’s Brian Clowes complained that:

“[M]any Namibians have fallen victim to anti-life thinking, simply because they haven’t heard the other side of the story. They did not comprehend why explicit sex education and contraception are intrinsically evil, and they found it very difficult to understand the scientific evidence and Church teachings on these issues.” [emphasis his]

Both Clowes’ and Casey’s claims are not just insulting to Africa, but imperialistic. Why should U.S. groups export their ideologies to Africa—why should they believe they know better than Africans? Unlike many leaders of the U.S. conservative ideology, most Africans understand that sex education, abortion and contraception save lives. But thanks to the intense pressure of these right-wing actors, the once-rational thinking among African nations is being corrupted in order to deny women of their rights—frequently through legislation such as constitutional amendments (which the American groups help to draft) which define life as beginning at conception. Even in a country like Rwanda, for example, disinformation campaigns from these U.S. organizations has pushed the general public to actually believe that abortion is a crime.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, Advocates International, and the American Center for Law and Justice are three of the leading U.S. conservative legal organizations involved in exporting the U.S. culture wars to Africa. But unlike Americans like Lively, Engle, and Warren who came into the spotlight after giving public speeches to sway the local populaces, these secretive conservative legal organizations have been able to avoid negative press by working directly with lawmakers to draft and impose draconian laws, creating the false impression that they’re coming solely from these countries’ representatives.

Last week, the Ethiopian government cancelled the anti-gay rally and dropped the proposed anti-gay bill, but the LGBTQ community continues to be under surveillance and under attack. At this moment, LGBTQ persons “are very scared even to socialize,” a prominent human rights activist recently told me.

U.S. conservatives claim innocence when it comes to the exportation of homophobia—especially when called to account. But the truth is that intense persecution and violence against LGBTQ people is what follows these “innocent” visits from the American Right.

ITN News’ Channel 4 and PRA’s Kapya Kaoma Take Down Scott Lively

Channel 4

PRA’s senior researcher Kapya Kaoma joined ITN News’ Channel 4 (England) in a spotlight feature about Scott Lively’s involvement in the creation of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The piece includes PRA’s exclusive video of Lively’s presentation at a Uganda anti-gay conference in 2009.

Watch the embedded video below, or on Channel 4′s website.

Only Fools Believe? Pastor Rick Warren and Global Homophobia

Pastor Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren

The recent passage of highly punitive anti-LGBTQ legislation in Nigeria, Uganda, and Russia has brought renewed media scrutiny to certain conservative American evangelicals known for campaigning against homosexuality abroad. Pastors Scott Lively and Rick Warren – in particular – have been called out for creating the conditions that led to Uganda’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act. That law imposes long jail sentences (up to life in prison) for being LGBTQ and criminalizes anyone who dares to speak out in defense of the human rights of sexual minorities. Thanks to Lively, Warren, and a number of other American culture warriors, there is a wave of politicized homophobia burning its way through villages, cities, and parliaments in Africa. Were I in Uganda today, I could be arrested just for writing this.

Although documentation of the involvement of right-wing American campaigners (including by this writer) is ample, the current media scrutiny has brought forth predictable denials of responsibility. We’ve seen this movie before. When things get hot, as they did when Uganda’s Parliament considered a death penalty provision for its Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the likes of Lively and Warren attempted to deflate the public’s anger at their involvement by issuing statements distancing themselves from the very events they set in motion. Now again, there appears to be a dedicated PR campaign to whitewash the history of right-wing evangelical involvement in exporting their U.S.-style anti-LGBTQ and reproductive freedom campaigns abroad.

In Lively’s case, a U.S. federal judge has determined that there is sufficient evidence of his direct involvement in committing crimes against humanity that the Springfield, Mass., pastor now awaits a civil trial here at home for persecuting Uganda’s sexual minority community. Key evidence for the case comes from Lively himself, who has a habit of boasting about his influence in Uganda and Russia, among other places. When asked about the original death penalty provision of the Uganda bill, Lively said it was not his preferred methodology, but pushed for the bill’s passage anyway, saying, “I think the lesser of two evils is for the bill to go through.” It seems Lively is such an unrepentant believer in the evil of homosexuality that he can’t help but remain outspoken – even when it brings him public condemnation.

But what of Baptist megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren? Yes, he campaigns against same-sex marriage and promotes creationism, but Warren also cultivates a much more moderate image than the fire-and-brimstone Lively. Warren delivered the invocation at President Obama’s first inauguration and aspires to a prominent role in American public life. (Lively presumably gave up any hopes of mainstream acceptance when he co-authored a book blaming the Nazi Party and Holocaust on homosexuals.)

On March 2 of this year, Warren responded to the renewed public criticism of his promotion of homophobia abroad in with a post on his Facebook page under the heading, “Only fools believe everything they hear!” Warren says that he “publicly opposed [Uganda’s bill] nearly 5 years ago,” and argues that he’s been wrongly associated with the measure ever since MSNBC host Rachel Maddow “falsely accused” him of supporting it back in 2009.

It is true that Warren publicly criticized the bill in December 2009, calling it unjust “and un-Christian.” But his denouncement came only after intense and sustained pushback when Americans learned of his public statements in Africa condemning homosexuality, and about his close relationships with the Ugandan politicians and pastors who had taken up their American colleagues’ call to “defend” their children, families, and nation from homosexuality. When Pastor Warren visited Uganda in 2008, he supported and encouraged Anglican Archbishop Bishop Henry Orombi’s boycott of the Lambeth Conference (the worldwide gathering of Anglican Bishops every 10 years) where tolerance of sexual diversity was encouraged. Warren told the African press that “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. We shall not tolerate this aspect at all.” Pastor Warren left Uganda, but his powerful condemnation remained, recirculated in the Uganda media for years.

Pastor Warren’s words and actions helped pave the way for the bill in the first place. But he has never acknowledged any of this, and has instead depicted himself as an innocent bystander to the whole affair who nonetheless had the courage to speak out against the measure. Warren fails to acknowledge his statement denying the human rights of LGBTQ people. Further, before he tried to distance himself from the “Kill the Gays Bill,” he responded to early criticism of his involvement by saying, “[I]t is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

My 2009 report, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches & Homophobia, was widely cited by Warren’s critics. The study examines the interference of various right-wing U.S. groups and individuals in African political and church affairs, and it addresses Pastor Warren’s influence in Africa and his 2008 denouncement of homosexuality in Uganda.

Eventually the pressure grew too strong for Warren to avoid public comment. But his much-cited denunciation of the bill also provoked a reaction from his previous allies in Uganda. Martin Ssempa – a Ugandan pastor trained by conservative American evangelicals and one of the most ardent champions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – responded with an open letter to Warren, accusing the Saddleback pastor of failing to stand up for his own words and values. Ssempa’s criticism of Warren was not merely for standing in opposition to himself and the Uganda legislation, but for saying one thing in Africa, and another in the United States. Ssempa reminded Pastor Warren that when he went “to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, he condemned homosexuality.” Ssempa also wrote of how Pastor Warren taught Ugandans that “the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil.” The underlying theme of the Ssempa letter is a charge of betrayal.

As part of his denial of association with the campaign to persecute sexual minorities, Warren says he wrote to then-Anglican Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi voicing his opposition to the death penalty provision of the bill. (He says Orombi wrote back saying that “he, too, was opposed to the death penalty for homosexuals.”) Pastor Warren’s letter to Archbishop Orombi is not in the public record, but until he stepped down as Archbishop in 2012, Orombi was consistently one of the most influential leaders supporting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Like Ssempa, Orombi advocated replacing the death penalty with severe prison sentences, as happened with the final version signed into law by President Museveni.

Pastor Warren laments that “lies and errors are never removed from the internet. False information on the internet is global, searchable, and permanent.” While that is true, truth and history also remain online. The Internet is where I found Warren’s on-camera endorsement of California’s anti-LGBTQ Proposition 8, and his claims that same-sex marriage was consistent with incest, pedophilia, and polygamy (all statements he later claimed he never made).

So when Pastor Warren laments the outcry over his involvement in the persecution of African sexual minorities, one has to consider the source. And when one reads Warren’s 2009 statement about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, one has to consider the context. We are still waiting for Warren to publicly acknowledge his role in fostering anti-LGBTQ hysteria in Uganda. Meanwhile, Warren’s global outreach continues to grow. While his public relations machine in the United States promotes his “Daniel Plan” diet book, he is pursuing an ambitious plan to open Saddleback Churches in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Manila, Ghana, and Moscow. Will that prove to be the next stepping stool for attacks on freedom and human rights? What do you believe?

VIDEO: Rev. Kapya Kaoma Discusses the U.S. Religious Right Behind Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law

PRA Researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma discusses U.S. conservative involvement in African anti-gay laws

PRA Researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma discusses U.S. conservative involvement in African anti-gay laws on The Real News Network

Political Research Associates’ Senior Religion and Sexuality Researcher, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, joined The Real News Network to discuss how U.S. conservative evangelicals are the real culprits behind Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law.

Watch the interview below or on TheRealNews.com

Decriminalizing Queer Requires More Than Diplomacy

obama back off africa

An American Episcopal bishop was traveling in South Africa shortly after Gene Robinson had been consecrated as the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion. While visiting a rural seminary, the bishop found a group of students, sitting around a late-night campfire, engrossed in animated conversation in their native Swahili language. Interested to know what deep theological query was up for debate, the bishop asked his translator what the group was talking about, and was amused to learn that the topic of discussion was none other than his dear friend, Gene.

Speaking through his translator, the bishop said to the group, “As it so happens, I know Gene – he’s a good friend of mine. In fact, I’ve been to his house and have had dinner with him and his partner. What would you like to know about him?”

This disclosure sparked another lively debate among the seminarians, who ultimately returned to the translator with one burning question: “Who cooks?”

As the Anglican Church was being torn asunder over the ordination of LGBTQ individuals, it’s somewhat funny that such a seemingly simple concern would be the question for the South African seminarians. But it also illustrates some of the deeper issues at play. In cultures where strict gender roles are considered fundamental to the integrity of family and community, it can be difficult for someone to imagine how a family might eat, for example, if the household doesn’t include someone who’s traditionally understood to hold cooking responsibilities.

However, as noted in the recent “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality” submitted to Uganda’s President Museveni by a team of expert (Ugandan) scientists, “Homosexuality existed in Africa way before the coming of the white man.” And evidently, somebody managed to get the cooking done.

Under the Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865, England was able to impose its laws on colonized territories, including Uganda. This package of imported morality included the 1533 Buggery Act, which originally condemned anyone found guilty of an “unnatural sex act” to death and loss of property. By 1885, although the death penalty was replaced with imprisonment, the Courts specified that anal sex between men was a crime.

England and Wales got rid of their sodomy laws in 1967 (decades before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas ruling in 2003 which finally eliminated sodomy laws here), but Uganda had gained its independence in 1962, and the homophobia inherited from British colonial rule remained on the books.

These relics of the colonial era, combined with a new wave of aggressive fervor from U.S. conservative evangelical missionaries, have created the perfect foundation for an all-out war against LGBTQ people (formally declared by Pres. Museveni in his Valentine’s Day address last week). That foundation is further fueled by the historic trauma of colonization, which helps enable leaders like Museveni to cast homosexuality as a Western import, and criminalization of homosexuality as an anti-colonial act of “resistance” rather than oppression.

The attacks on LGBTQ people have more to do with post-colonial backlash against the West than with upholding “traditional African values,” as was illustrated by The Gambia president Yahya Jammeh’s recent speech, marking the 49th anniversary of The Gambia’s independence from Britain. Speaking on state television, Jammeh proclaimed that his country would defend its sovereignty and Islamic beliefs and not yield to outside pressure on LGBTQ issues.  Addressing threats from the United States and other Western nations to cut foreign aid to countries that pass anti-homosexuality laws, Jammeh declared, “We will … not accept any friendship, aid or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT as they are now baptized by the powers that promote them.”

“As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria, and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni’s spokesperson, Tamale Mirundi, has stated that the country “can do without” American foreign aid and that Museveni “cannot be intimidated.” (Currently, the U.S. contributes around $400 million in foreign aid to Uganda every year, much of which goes towards humanitarian causes, including the battle against HIV/AIDS.)

Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity who has actively campaigned against the LGBTQ community, has also proclaimed that Ugandans would rather “die poor than live in an immoral nation.”

According to Mirundi, “If you use the [foreign] aid or other strings you are inciting the population in Uganda to rally behind the President.”

Indeed, President Obama’s recent condemnation of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may have received praise from LGBTQ and human rights advocates in the United States, but the shaming of Uganda’s leader is likely to only further entrench international opponents. As Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma has observed, “By signing this draconian bill, Museveni repositions himself as the defender of Uganda against ‘Western imperialism’ on one hand, and the defender of Ugandan religious and cultural values to the populace, on the other.”

This same dynamic is playing out in Russia, where President Putin has been boosting his political standing and solidifying his power through a strategic pro-Russian/anti-Western campaign that positions LGBTQ people as the ultimate Western-made threat to Mother Russia.

Presenting Russia’s “Report on the Human Rights Situation in the European Union” at the 32nd EU-Russia Summit last month, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry’s human rights commissioner, said the EU and its 28 member states saw it as a priority to disseminate their “neo-liberal values as a universal lifestyle for all other members of the international community.” Citing the EU’s “aggressive promotion of the sexual minorities’ rights,” the report argued that “Such an approach encounters resistance not only in the countries upholding traditional values, but also in those countries which have always taken a liberal attitude towards queers.”

So what are concerned Western activists to do?

Any thoughtfully considered approach to solidarity work must centralize the leadership of those who are most directly affected by the injustice at hand, so when the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights & Constitutional Law calls for U.S. and other countries to withdraw their Ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria, the request needs to be taken seriously.

In a press statement released by the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin said, “The Ugandan and Nigerian governments’ decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both Ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries.”

The U.S.-based LGBTQ rights group All Out has also joined the effort with an online petition. In their explanation of the campaign, organizers write, “If thousands and thousands of us speak out right now we can get the attention of the whole world. We could even get world leaders, major corporations, and religious institutions with sway in Uganda to use their influence.”

But there’s another influencing factor in the struggle for LGBTQ justice in Uganda that cuts in international aid would paradoxically bolster: that of right-wing U.S. evangelicals—the very same people who laid the foundation for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the first place. While diplomatic pressure may prevent further criminalization of LGBTQ Ugandans in a legislative sense, reversing over 150 years of colonial and neocolonial anti-LGBTQ indoctrination requires more than a condemnatory statement from the U.S. Secretary of State.

Perhaps our greatest contribution as Americans is to start here at home—to confront those who have propagated violence and virulent messages against LGBTQ people around the world, hold them accountable for the harm that they’ve caused, and develop long-term strategies for transforming hearts and minds and building toward truly comprehensive liberation.

WARNING: U.S. LGBTQ Organizations Falling Into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Trap

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Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. photo credit: BBC

This morning, I woke up to the news that various human rights organizations in both the U.S. and Uganda are demanding a recall of the U.S. Ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria.  I first thought it was a joke—but then I read more press releases and saw petitions on Facebook and Twitter. These organizations are falling right into the well-organized trap set by U.S. conservatives.

Last weekend, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni gave a speech “declar[ing] war on the ‘homosexual lobby,’” and called on all Ugandans to stand with him—he was expecting the Western world to react to his declaration. To Museveni and most Ugandans, the ‘homosexual lobby’ includes not only major LGBTQ rights organizations, but the United States and the European Union, which have for many years fought for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons on African soil. Western nations and organizations have not fought in the way social justice-minded people have hoped—they have not stopped the arrests, or the beatings—but there is no doubt that their presence and back-room meetings with African politicians has saved LGBTQ lives from systematic persecution, and in some cases, genocides.

It is these nations and organizations that have provided safe spaces for African LGBTQ persons—even in extraordinarily homophobic countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and The Gambia—to share their plight and reorganize after their governments disband them. In Zambia and Uganda, these nations have gone beyond simple meetings with local LGBTQ activists, but are also monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, flooding court rooms when LGBTQ persons appear in court, and have provided safety when African nations declare war on gays. When LGBTQ Africans lives’ are in immediate danger, it is to the U.S. and European embassies they run for safety. These nations’ open protection of sexual minorities in Africa has resulted in charges of “promoting homosexuality in Africa” by both religious and political leaders.

Honestly, had it not been for the presence of the U.S. and European embassies, African gays would have been massacred years ago, without any fear of consequences. For LGBTQ organizations to now demand they pull out of Uganda perilously compromises the lives of LGBTQ persons—who will not have anyone to turn to for safety, and strip our ability to monitor persecution.

I understand that we are all desperate to stop the progression of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But threatening to leave the country will only boost the political power and credibility of leaders like Museveni, David Bahati, and Martin Ssempa—opening the door for African nations to expand further anti-LGBTQ laws, possibly even including executions and mass slaughter.

Knowing that most people don’t understand the pan-African ethics of solidarity, how African nations perceive the West’s response to Uganda will have effects across the continent, from Kenya to Algeria to Namibia.

We need Western nations’ presence in the fight against the criminalization of LGBTQ persons in Africa more than American human rights activists. Recalling the U.S. ambassador will just confirm the false claim that Western nations are in Uganda for one purpose—to recruit young people into homosexuality. This perception will increase the negative attitudes against LGBTQ persons in Uganda.

It is time to realize that African LGBTQ people are not all activists—most of them exist without public faces.

The withdrawal of the U.S. Ambassador from Uganda and Nigeria would also have some neo-colonial implications, which we should guard against. Uganda is not the first country to pass this Anti-Homosexuality Bill banning advocacy for LGBTQ issues—Russia was first. Nigeria followed, and many more nations are still to follow. How do we explain that no calls have gone out for the U.S. to sever diplomatic relations with Russia, but then call for the cutting of those ties to African nations? Frankly speaking, this move is an invitation for neo-colonial politics—which make even vicious dictators (like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) heroes in the eyes of African people.

African nations are sensitive to neo-colonial and imperialistic attitudes of the West—hence they are likely to side with Museveni when he is condemned for his handling of homosexuality. The move will only make Museveni a hero not just among Ugandans, but also among his African allies—precisely what he is hoping for after watching his political power fade in recent years. If the West attacks him, and leaves the country, Museveni will have free reign to rule as the dictator he wants to be.

So what is the way forward?

African homophobia is promoted and propelled by religion. In Uganda, Christian leaders (paid for and encouraged by American evangelicals) have been demanding the bill for years, and pushing their followers to vote for the lawmakers who support it. Politicians will always be politicians—they are always looking for votes. In his attempt to win the Evangelical votes in 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama disagreed with same-sex marriage in a debate moderated by Pastor Rick Warren—one of very same U.S. evangelicals who worked with anti-gay pastors in Uganda. But to think that such dynamics only work in American politics is naïve at best, and dangerous, careless, and deadly at worst. Museveni needs votes to remain in power. So the answer to Uganda’s anti-gay bill lies in the primarily Christian electorate of Uganda. We should be demanding that Pope Francis speak directly to President Museveni and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, and urge Ugandan Roman Catholics to proclaim his already-stated opposition to any law criminalizing LGBTQ persons. U.S. Anglican, and Evangelical/Pentecostal leaders should equally speak to their friends in Uganda about the dignity and fundamental human rights of sexual minorities. And the American people must demand an end to the constant flow of exportation of homophobia from U.S. evangelicals like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren to Ugandan pastors and politicians.

Open letters, petitions, and press releases will only give Museveni and Uganda lawmakers another reason to sign and enforce the bill.