The meeting of African Bishops in Entebbe, Uganda has not surprisingly, been used to reaffirm the church’s homophobic stance. The bishops spoke about “African Values” and “alien beliefs”. Since the rights of LGBTI people are being denied this implies that the notion of ‘human rights’ is not part of our values and beliefs. The hatred expressed through homophobia and criminalisation also implies that the idea of people’s humanity is not part of our values and beliefs. This is not true – not because we as Africans are special, though the bishops statements completely contradict “Ubuntu” but because these are universal values and beliefs which are both within religions and outside them.
One Bishop made a slight variation to the usual homophobic rhetoric presumably addressing the statement that Christianity itself is not “African” by claiming that there was a church in North Africa before there was one in Britain.
Before Christianity went to Britain, he added, there was a church in North Africa….
“So Christianity did not begin in Britain; we should counteract false ideologies that creep into the church and blur the truth,” he argued.
It’s interesting that North Africa [I assume he means Egypt were the Orthodox church dates back to 471AD] has now become part of the African Bishops consciousness but he either forgot or isn’t aware that one of the oldest Christian churches in the world is the Ethiopian coptic church which predates the colonial period. So yes there is a history of pre-colonial christianity on the continent but that is not the case for Uganda and other parts of the continent where the religion was imposed by colonial rule – and maybe he should be reminded of the violence surrounding that imposition. Origins of christianity and churches aside I think it is well worth putting things into perspective and pointing out that millions have died and been excluded in the name of Christianity. Those engaged in buying and selling of Africans, engaged in Apartheid, Jim Crow, those who murdered millions of indigenous Americans and Caribbeans all did so in the name of Christianity so personally I am not that taken in by their values and beliefs – they are simply bigots like all those aforementioned that dehumanize people in order to justify their exclusion. In fact they are following in the very un Christ like traditions of Christianity.
In a just-announced major initiative to decriminalize homosexuality across Africa, David Kuria, the manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, writes, “The reason why Africa cannot decriminalize of its own accord is because it requires enormous political capital and since homosexuality has become a religious hot potato, the stakes have gone so high, no government will touch the subject.”
This nascent initiative consists of a discussion group where members are invited to “brainstorm, strategize and take action.” Its beginning premise is that international intervention and global pressure from outside the continent will be necessary to enact sexual minority rights in Africa. Certainly, this strategy seemed to have worked in Malawi, where Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who had been jailed for allegedly breaking colonial-era anti-sodomy laws, were released following global outcry and economic pressure.