Wednesday, 11 August 2004

Homophobia and the Global South

Amnesty International UK published a book at the beginning of July: Sex, Love and Homophobia by Vanessa Baird, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu. The book documents the violent persecution of gays around the world, which has reached “epidemic” levels in some nations, according to the author. More on the book here.

Later in the month at General Synod, the Campaigns Director of AI UK, Stephen Bowen spoke to a lunchtime fringe meeting about the book and nature of AI’s work in this area. He stressed the importance AI places on keeping out of internal disputes within religious or political organisations. Their concern is strictly with the civil rights of millions of human beings.

On 1 July The Times published an article by Desmond Tutu titled Homophobia is as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid. Here’s a short extract:

A student once asked me if I could have one wish granted to reverse an injustice, what would it be? I had to ask for two. One is for world leaders to forgive the debts of developing nations which hold them in such thrall. The other is for the world to end the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation, which is every bit as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid.

… In its new book, Sex, Love and Homophobia, Amnesty International has reported on the stories of people around the world who simply wish to love one another as an expression of their everyday lives, just like anyone, anywhere. These include Poliyana Mangwiro who was a leading member of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe despite Robert Mugabe’s protestations that homosexuality is “against African traditions”. And Simon Nkoli, the ANC activist who after spending four years in prison under apartheid went on to be the face of the struggle for gay rights in the new South Africa.

But the voices of hate, fear and persecution are also strong and lamentably often supported by faith leaders. From Egypt to Iran, Nigeria to India, Burma to Jamaica, gay men, lesbians and transgender people are harassed, imprisoned, beaten and forced from their communities.

Some states even make homosexuality punishable by death. The Churches are not vocal enough in opposing these vicious injustices, while some Christians even encourage such persecution.

LGCM issued a statement the same day titled An appeal to the Bishops of the West supporting the Bishops of the Global South. It starts out:

The majority of homosexual people in the world are not engaged in the present dispute over the ordination of lesbian and gay Christians.

They live in some 80 countries which persecute LGBT people through their penal codes with punishments ranging from death to mutilation and imprisonment.

For these millions, mostly in the Global South, preserving their life and liberty is their daily concern and it is on their behalf we now appeal to you for help.

You have a unique position to help homosexual people. Few, if any of you, would advocate these terrible punishments in your own countries, and we ask you to use your influence to persuade your brother bishops to help remedy these injustices in their homelands.

Read the whole thing here. Individual copies of this letter were sent to:

  • those bishops in England who last year opposed The Very Revd Jeffrey John’s nomination as a bishop;
  • the Bishop of Pittsburgh and the other bishops in the USA who have combined in opposition to the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson;
  • the Primate of New Zealand;
  • the Archbishop of Sydney.

As a consequence of this letter, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney was invited to consider the following resolution:

The Standing Committee, noting the open letter dated 1 July 2004 sent by the UK Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement to the “Bishops of the West supporting the Bishops of the Global South” (including the Archbishop of Sydney) about the treatment of homosexual people in many Global south countries; and noting paragraph (d) of the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality, which says:
(d) while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
urges the Global South Primates of the Anglican Communion to do all within their power both to encourage the decriminalisation of homosexual activity in their respective countries and to ensure that their words and actions do not in any way encourage violence towards homosexuals.

But after two meetings this agenda item has still not been reached, although two amendments had been filed, which would emasculate or remove entirely the last paragraph.

After all lay presidency is much more important.

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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

“But after two meetings this agenda item has still not been reached, although two amendments had been filed, which would emasculate or remove entirely the last paragraph.”

May God have mercy on us for our blindness, our recalcitrance, and our hardness of heart. Even in these United States of America I can find no safety of life, nor equality of treatment under the law, either civil or ecclesiastical, for my brother who is out of the closet as a gay man. How can I then hope that the western churches will have any moral authority with the global south to encourage, no to implore, to impress the global south with the need to end the, often legally and ecclesiastically sanctioned, violence against LGBT persons?

So long as the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution on human sexuality is quoted and looked to for moral authority, but the section expecting conversations with, not about, homosexual persons, in the same room with them I assume, continues to be ignored by so many in the church, I have no hope that we can end this violence.

Still, I pray for it daily, as I pray for those on all sides of this issue, God only knows why. I pray that on this we might at least all agree: that in Christ Jesus we might put aside all differences and submit to being in the same room with one another, and work with one another, regardless of sexual orientation, theological point of view, or fear of being seen to approve a particular point of view or action, in order to put an end to sanctioned violence against all persons, and at this time especially against those who are gay or lesbian.

Lois Blanche Thien Keen

Posted by: Rev'd. Lois T. Keen at August 12, 2004 03:34 PM

Bishop Tutu has a very idiosyncratic view of injustice. Why is it unjust to expect someone who borrowed money to pay it back? It is not like these countries lack resources.

Posted by: cousin vinnie at August 13, 2004 04:36 AM

Individual copies of this letter were sent to:…the Bishop of Pittsburgh and the other bishops in the USA who have combined in opposition to the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson

Don’t hold your breath here. There’s precious little chance of these bishops responding at all, much less in a positive manner. I doubt the people involved in the so-called “Anglican Communion Network” even see this human rights issue in the Global South as a problem. Their goal is to push a conservative cultural agenda whilst wrapping their socio-political motivations in a cloak of “true religion.”

Posted by: David Huff at August 13, 2004 02:10 PM

Amnesty International apolitical?? ROFL!

Tutu and LGCM are hardly agenda free either.

Look, gay bashing IS wrong, whereever it occurs. But the timing in impugning the Global South is highly suspicious.

Posted by: WannabeAnglican at August 13, 2004 02:11 PM

While Global Southern bishops, much less governments, are not above criticism, I agree with Wannabeanglican’s suspicion about the timing of the letter. That’s being said, I find only one thing wrong with the resolution before the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney and would urge their passage of the resolution, perhaps in an amended form. One does wonder exactly how the Global South bishops can “ensure that their words and actions do not in any way encourage violence towards homosexuals” save by condemning such violence. However, the history of criticism from many (though not all) LGBT activists suggests that such insurance is impossible for the Global South bishops because of the claim that any criticism of homosexuality, including the belief that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture and with faithful Christian discipleship, encourages and is even tantamount to violence.

Posted by: Todd Granger at August 14, 2004 12:15 PM

Wanabeanglican and Todd Granger are suspicious of the Open Letter. As the person who drafted the original and decided its release date I would be happy to tell them, if they contact me, what led to its conception. At the same time I welcome their clear condemnation of any violence to LGBT people, perhaps they share with me an amazement that the Gospel we all share and love should be used by any as a tool to persecute, imprison, maim or destroy any child of God.
As to how they should act and speak, this is complex and contextual. There exists a powerful hatred of LGBT people, as there is of many groups. From the global south perspective it should be the role of all bishops and leaders to place themselves between the howling mob and the victim and say: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
What they whisper in our ear as they embrace us and lead us to safety is another matter. Whatever our view, surely all should rally to the call to defend LGBT people from hatred and persecution.
With respect, it is for those who are sure we are at fault to find the way to calm the violence within their societies while at the same time finding a language of love to share their view and change men’s hearts. What I hear is too often highly inflammatory and inspires violence.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds at August 15, 2004 11:29 PM

Cousin Vinnie would have these countries stripped of their “resources” in order to pay debts too large for them to carry? Let’s hope the creditors of the U.S. don’t decide to call due our own national debt! And (speaking of scriptural authority) what of Leviticus’s prohibition on charging interest and requirement of periodic forgiveness of debt?

Posted by: Paul at August 20, 2004 01:40 PM

Spam, glorious spam!

Maybe that’s what can bring conservatives and liberals together: joint condemnation of spam! :-)

Funny: when AI was condemning Soviet gulags, I don’t remember conservatives refusing to cite that condemnation in their arguments for, say, boycotts, embargoes and Star Wars. Silly me, that was condemnation of Bad Oppression, not “political” harrassment of the Good kind!

Here’s a thought for the ‘phobes: if you really want to “Love One Out” of homosexuality, why not “kill ‘em w/ kindness”—-instead of turning a blind eye (and mute mouth) to the more literal kind of killing (esp. in the lands of your new Global South friends)?

Posted by: J. Collins Fisher at August 26, 2004 03:15 AM
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