Monday, May 21, 2012

LGBTI SEMINAR HELD FOR NAIROBI CLERGY by Rev. John Makokha as posted in Other Sheep Africka-Kenya, Facebook on May 21

Other Sheep Afrika-Kenya held a one-day seminar for 30 Nairobi clergy drawn from diverse denominational backgrounds. The dialogue and engagement seminar on human sexuality and faith was held on May 5, 2012. The purpose of the seminar was to reduce religious homophobia that has caused a lot of suffering, persecution and stigmatization of the LGBTI persons in our respective communities in Kenya.

At the opening of the dialogue, the pastors had come with the background believe that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is sinful and an abomination. One participant argued that gays must be healed and transformed because God created man and woman.

Rev. Michael Kimindu. President of Other Sheep Africa guided the participants on the importance
Rev. Kimindu
of proper interpretation of the Scripture within any given context. He said surface value interpretation of scriptures has caused a lot of suffering to minorities throughout history.

Kimindu said that the passage that is most frequently cited in book of Romans, speaks of men
committing indecent acts and inflamed with lust for one another. The correct hermeneutical view of this passage is the idolaters who worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.

The participants were engaged dialogically that the Bible rightfully condemns homosexual rape, sexual promiscuity, sexual slavery, and temple prostitution and the sexual exploitation of young boys that was the prevalent practice in the Greco-Roman culture at the time. There is nowhere in the scripture that condemns gays who faithfully commit themselves to long term loving relationships.

The reality of the clergy is a call to be wounded by the reality of the threat and suffering, and make present the unconditional love of God. “Stop, think and pray before you start fighting, pastors should not be lions but Daniels in the lion’s den”, he advised.

Rev. John Makokha, Chief Executive Officer of Other Sheep Afrika-Kenya said that throughout the
Rev.. Makokha
history of the church, gays have always been perceived as outcasts and sinners. By contrast, the most striking part of Jesus’ ministry was love for outcasts. ‘ Dear brothers and sisters, I think Jesus would rebuke the church today for rejecting and stigmatizing gay persons”, he said.

He said that the world is full of bad news when it comes to the human dignity, rights and spiritual nurturing and mentorship of LGBTI persons due to religious homophobia. This has caused great and unjust injury and suffering to the LGBTI community.
Many men involved in prostitution are almost poor, it may be their poverty, rather than their sexual orientation that puts them at risk of HIV infection.

Research has shown that many adolescent men, who are involved in homosexual prostitution, do not necessarily identify themselves as gay men. It is unfortunate that crimes against gay men and women are felt mostly among the poor. Structural social forces have created extreme suffering and structural violence for the minorities in our communities. Indeed our society enjoys an equality that in fact does not exist.

There is no doubt that the only correct way to love the LGBTI will be to struggle for their liberation. It will be worthy to fight for change. What is at sake for many LGBTI is physical, emotional and spiritual survival.

The clergy were required to preach against sinful practices, but not against people whose practices exhibit love, peace and kindness. There are gay persons who are compassionate, caring and faithful Christians and law -abiding good citizens of our beloved country Kenya.

Wendy Wanja, a lawyer from Law and Social development Trust said that we all have equal human rights irrespective of our sexuality and gender identity. “We are equally entitled to our human rights without any form of discrimination. All means all”, she stressed.

She said that God is not a book, God is not the law and God is justice.

Soraya Wanjiru, a psychologist from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology facilitated on the psychological position of gay persons. She said that various credible researches have shown that being gay is not illness or madness. “Sexual orientation like the color of our skin is innate”, she affirmed.

The participants were given more reference materials on human sexuality and Christianity for further reading and knowledge.

This seminar was made possible with support from Foundation of Open Society Institute.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

KENYA: Religious Violence against Gays will Promote HIV Spread

This Article is by Rev. John Makokha, Kenya
Submitted on March 13, 2012

The situation of people living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya is getting more critical everyday. And our inaction and negative response to this pandemic puts into question the direction of our compass on health and sexuality issues.
What happened recently in Likoni in the coastal town of Mombasa in Kenya in regard to physical violence on the gay persons who were attending the HIV /AIDS workshop is disturbing. Again religious leaders led a mob to stone the gay persons who were attending a seminar on HIV/AIDS organized by the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium.
Homosexual activity was widespread in medieval monasteries; Greek literature describes homosexual relationships between youth and older men. The Roman world also acknowledged homosexual behavior. We have also had homosexuals in the African culture. Throughout history political and religious tolerance and acceptance of homosexual behavior has varied depending on religious dogmas and political persuasions. 
The social sciences indicate that anywhere from two to four percent of the population is predominantly homosexual. This means that we cannot deny the existence of homosexuals in our respective localities. Most clients of MSM are married men with families or homosexuals who have been forced to marry wives due to social and family pressure.

According to sero-prevalence studies among small groups of MSM in Nairobi and Mombasa, done by International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), Kenya has documented up to 40 per cent HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men.  Men who have sex with men in Kenya have been identified as one of the driving forces of HIV infections, therefore the risk of wider spread of HIV beyond the men who have sex with men (MSM) community. We cannot have total war against HIV if we are discriminating a section of the population on the basis of their sexual orientation.
The MSM have been known to suffer from stigma, isolation and discrimination when visiting health providers. Religious leaders and main stream organizations reject and condemn gay persons wholesale that they are sinners and expressly going to hell. MSM people face gigantic oppressions by society, religion, and the law.

Socio-cultural factors, such as perceptions and experiences of stigma and discrimination, homophobia and internalized oppression may also lead to increased risk of HIV infection in MSM. These factors may play a significant role in increasing unprotected anal sex, multiple sexual partners, and inconsistent use of condoms.
In Kenya we have laws that criminalize homosexuality that end up making MSM more vulnerable to HIV infection. The criminal law excludes MSM from sexual health programmes out of fear of being arrested and prosecuted. Some health care providers may worry that they will also be arrested for delivering services to MSM. As a result the MSM prefer to operate underground exposing themselves further to higher risk of HIV infections.

Relentless harassment, ridicule, rejection and violence lead many MSM to actively hide their relationships. This disconnects them from social support and other resources that could improve their general health. People living with HIV and AIDS, health care providers and the community must be part of an informed and empowered community for health care without any discrimination.
Religious organizations in Kenya have been reported to have intolerant attitudes to MSM. Non-conforming sexual orientations are a challenge to the Abrahamic faiths that states that humans are created as man and woman. In most cases these scriptures are interpreted literally.

When gay men succumb to social pressure and enter into heterosexual marriage, they will often maintain sexual relationships with male partners. This can result in unseen sexual networks, multiplying opportunities for HIV transmission and making it difficult to reach sexual partners with health information and interventions.
Hostile conditions can push MSM underground, making them virtually “invisible” in the epidemic and extremely difficult to reach with the HIV information and services they may need.  Healthcare providers may intentionally and unintentionally express disapproval and prejudice, driving MSM a way from health care settings. Homophobia impedes an effective Aids response.

MSM are at higher increased risk of HIV/AIDS infections due to hostile social/cultural and religious environment. Behavior identity often hidden and health services not responded to MSM needs. Gay people have been under-served.
Religious leaders must be trained and sensitized on the need to handle MSM community with dignity they deserve and reduce homophobia. They should be made aware that without addressing MSM as a vulnerable group to HIV/AIDS then there will be no end to this pandemic.

The religious institution should be a peaceable community that mediates justice and grace of God. Everyone should be drawn into the safe and inclusive space that does not discriminate on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. There should be restoration of human rights and establishment of justice that is acceptable to all people.
One of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls for halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases like tuberculosis, by 2015. These cannot be achieved without improvements in the access to educational awareness and protection of human rights and dignity for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

It is evident that HIV/AIDS pandemic is one of the challenges of human health and prospects of achieving socio-economic and political development. Silence and violence is not an option for religious leaders. Injustice and suffering of the gay community compel religious institutions to advocate for change. They should speak with one voice against unjust violence and attitudes that deprive human beings of any dignity and peace.

We need sustained programs from an informed position by all stakeholders at micro or macro level to fight total war against AIDS in Kenya. We must break the silence about HIV and sexual orientation.HIV and AIDS affect all of God’s children, and thus, all must have a stake and a voice in its eradication.

Indeed, AIDS represents one of the greatest challenges to God’s will for creation, and one of the greatest threats to our common humanity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Report from the African Commission on Human and people’s Rights

24 years after its inception, the African Commission on Human and People’s rights had its 48th 0rdinary session in Banjul the Gambia on 10th November 2010. The commission was started in October 1986.
The countries under review in this session were the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.
As is the custom, the NGO forum took place before the commission, starting 7th to 9th November 2010.
The issue of denying the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) observer status at the commission was the most contentious issue with NGOs demanding an explanation from the commission for their decision. In line with this, a demonstration by African LGBTI activists was held on 8th at the forum, this prompted the forum to give five minutes of their time for the activists to make their case. It is within this time that Fikile Vilakazi and Kasha Jacqueline asked for the continued support of the NGO forum to the LGBTI community in Africa – it should be noted that this forum has been supportive and provided space for dialogue on LGBTI issues.
Ironically some people were still asking about procreation in the context of same sex relations with someone suggesting that since LGBT issues are so un-African, they (LGBT) should be shipped to Europe where it all came from.
On the morning of November 9th 2010, there was a meeting to discuss how best the LGBTI people of Africa could benefit from the newly formed HIV/AIDS working group at the commission. This meeting was attended by Commissioner Malila who is also the focal point for Uganda at the ACHPR and is one of the three commissioners on this working group.
This working group was established to bring HIV/AIDS to the fore at the ACHPR hence we wanted to find ways of maximizing benefits to the LGBT community from this working group and it was agreed that we come up with a working paper which we will use to initiated dialogue with the commissioners and committee members on this working group.
A taskforce was formed to draft a document and work plan for dealing with the working group and a list serve was started for consultations around this document.
The NGO steering committee on 9th November 2010 decided against homophobia and homophobic attacks in response to repeated attacks from some individuals on the flour. A copy of the code of conduct of the NGO forum will now be given to every participant to ensure that participants are respectful of others and diversity.
On 10th November 2010, the 48th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights was opened by the chairperson commissioner Gansur Alapini in the presence of the attorney general of the Gambia and several government and NGO representatives from all over Africa. The NGO report was read and it twice mentioned LGBT issues.
The NGO report indicated that the NGO forum had passed a couple of resolutions which included resolutions on children, disability, death penalty, freedom of association, human rights defenders, indigenous people, torture prevention, refugees, sexual orientation, African court and the SADC tribunal.
Meddy Kagwa of the Uganda Human Rights Commission represented national Human Rights organizations but said nothing about LGBT issues.
Hon. Freddie Ruhindi represented the Ugandan government and tried rather unconvincingly to defend the government actions in different aspects.
As far as NGO statements are concerned, almost all of them stated their disappointment at the commission’s refusal to grant the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) observer status without giving any reason. It overwhelming support for LGBT people from the NGOs.
A book about LGBT issues and suffering in Cameroon was launched on 11th November 2010.
On 12th November 2010, there was a ceremony to Commemorate of 30 years of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights which came into effect in 1970.
There after it was straight to private sessions.
From Banjul the Gambia, aluta continua.
Prepared by Dennis Wamala
Icebreakers Uganda

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Does Oral Roberts University Support Killing Gays in Uganda?

by Michael A. Jones

You've probably heard of Oral Roberts University before. The school, located in Oklahoma, was founded and named after one of the 20th century's most prominent evangelical leaders. Back in the day, Oral Roberts was a force to be reckoned with, having been one of the first ministers to make it big using television as a form of evangelism. His success led him to found the university in 1963, and though the school has gone through some major financial scandals in recent years, it still boasts a student population of close to 4,000 students.

Given the political beliefs of Roberts himself, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that Oral Roberts University's identity is closely wrapped up in social conservatism. Students are required to attend religious services at least twice a week, and there are chaplains for each floor of on-campus housing. Roberts himself used to say that he was told by God to build the school.

"Raise up your students to hear my voice, to go where my light is seen dim, where my voice is heard small, and my healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth. Their work will exceed yours, and in that I am well pleased," Roberts documented as the message he received from on High.

Of course, one has to wonder if the God that Oral Roberts was speaking to would be pleased today, given that Oral Roberts University champions a minister in Uganda who wants to slaughter LGBT people. That minister? His name is Martin Ssempa, and he's one of the leading pastors in Uganda pushing the country to enact a harsh Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would criminalize homosexuality with life prison sentences, and in many cases, the death penalty.

Oral Roberts University recognizes Pastor Ssempa as a member of the school's Board of Reference. The position seems rather symbolic, but those who are recognized as members of the Board of Reference are considered by Oral Roberts University to be among the most influential and respectable figures in the world. These are folks who help spread word about Oral Roberts University, and according to a school spokesperson, are used "for the purpose of credibility, for reputation, and for influence."

It's kind of odd, to say the least, that Oral Roberts University would want their reputation tied to a man like Martin Ssempa. Here is a person who advocates violence against LGBT people in Uganda. A person who shows pornographic images to families and even children, in order to stir outrage over homosexuality. A person who travels from community to community in Uganda arguing that homosexuality is an import from the west, and that anybody who is gay should be murdered or jailed. And a person who is pastor to the editor of a local paper, Rolling Stone, which continues to publish the names, faces and locations of people they believe are LGBT, with a call for these people to be hung.

Now that's some figure to have on your Board of Reference, Oral Roberts University.

Ssempa's work to demonize LGBT people has been condemned by many religious organizations, including some of his former partners. Pastor Rick Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa for the work Ssempa is doing to harm LGBT people. The Philadelphia Biblical University, which had previously awarded Ssempa an honorary degree, also blasted his anti-gay work as dangerous and harmful. And one Las Vegas megachurch, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, has continued to come under fire for their financial support of Martin Ssempa. Recently, they too have expressed concern about Ssempa's work.

That's a lot of international condemnation for the work of Pastor Ssempa. Yet Oral Roberts University continues to celebrate the guy. Reached earlier this year to comment on why they have someone like Ssempa on their Board of Reference, the university issued nothing but deafening silence.

Let's fix that. Send Oral Roberts University a message that by having someone like Martin Ssempa on a prominent university board, the school is sending a message that it supports his work to criminalize homosexuality in Uganda, and murder and imprison LGBT people. Ssempa has been completely transparent about what he wants to accomplish: he wants to see police round up LGBT people, he wants to see community members report people who are LGBT, and he wants to see straight people who support gay rights punished.

Now let's see if Oral Roberts University can be transparent. Will they condemn the work of Martin Ssempa, and remove him from their Board of Reference? Or will they lend credence, and their name, to the work that Ssempa is doing in Uganda to imprison and/or kill gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ugandan anti-gay measure will be law soon, law maker says

Article by: David McKenzie, CNN
According to Behind the Mask, this entry was posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2010 at 11:26 am and is filed under Breaking News, Uganda

The member of the Ugandan Parliament behind a controversial “anti-gay” bill that would call for stiff penalties against homosexuality – including life imprisonment and the death penalty – says that the bill will become law “soon.”

“We are very confident,” David Bahati told CNN, “because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children.”

See this article in full as posted in Behind the Mask 

Suing Rolling Stone Uganda

This event was posted on Facebook by Bombastic Kasha and SMUG:

Suing Rolling Stone Uganda
Time Monday, November 1 · 10:00am - 7:00pm
Location High Court in Kampala,Uganda
Created By Bombastic Kasha
More Info You are all invited to come and support us in suing the Rolling Stone Uganda Tabloid at 10am on 1st Nov 2010.Join Kasha Jacqueline,David Kato and Patience Onziema aka Pepe on behalf of many others in seeking media Justice and fundamental Human rights.  Your presence and support in whichever way means alot.

Courtcase: LGBT Activists Vs Rolling Stone & Giles Muhame
Time Monday, November 1 · 10:00am - 5:00pm
Location HIGH COURT of Uganda, Constitutional Square, Kampala, Uganda
Created By Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
More Info In an issue dated 02 -09 October 2010, The Rolling Stone newspaper published names and photos of people they called "Top Homos" calling for their hanging. Three of the activists Kasha Jacqueline, David Kato and Onziema Patience aka Pepe mentioned in the paper are seeking media Justice and respect of fundamental Human Rights on behalf of many others. His Worship Judge Kibuuka Musoke will preside over the case. Your presence and support always makes a difference. Thank you in advance for all your solidarity.