Rise in anti-gay attacks in Africa blamed on Christian evangelism
There has been a rise in the incidence of anti-gay attacks in Africa, and Christian evangelism is taking the brunt of the blame for it.
Homosexuality has long been taboo in Africa. According to The Washington Post, more than two-thirds of African countries have laws that render homosexuality a crime. In many of the countries, the laws date back to the colonial era.
The majority religion in the continent is Islam at 47 percent. However, Christianity is also sizeable, and a number of the African countries mentioned that are taking extreme actions against homosexuality are predominantly Christian.
The Prime Minister of predominantly Christian Kenya said recently that gay people who are discovered having sex together should be arrested, The Washington Post said.
According to The Washington Post, gay people also have been denied health care, and have been jailed, tortured and even killed. Njeri Kabeberi, executive director of the Center for Multiparty Democracy in Nairobi told The Christian Science Monitor, “We’ve seen this same issue come up in Uganda, in Zimbabwe [and] in Malawi.”
Wanyeki Muthoni, executive director of the independent Kenya Human Rights Commission blamed three converging trends for the rising antagonism against gays. First, Kenyan gays are becoming politically active and are demanding “basic equality and nondiscrimination,” The Christian Science Monitor reported.
Second, Muthoni told The Christian Science Monitor, the global debate over the ordination of gay priests has had an effect in Africa. Third, African churches are being influenced by American evangelicals in Africa.
In Christian Uganda, a pending bill seeks to impose the death penalty or life imprisonment on repeat homosexual “offenders.” Failure to report a homosexual is punishable by three years in jail. Promoting homosexuality can result in five to seven years imprisonment if the bill is passed, the UPI reported.
Newspapers in Uganda listed down the names and addresses of gays with the heading, “Hang them.” Sheila Hope Meugisha, a Ugandan activist, told UPI she was forced to stay home for several days because of this.
The rise in attacks is blamed on visits last year by three evangelical preachers, UPI said. However, The Christian Science Monitor noted that homosexuality had been illegal in Uganda even during the British colonial era.
According to The Christian Science Monitor under the British, parliament had debated for a while, but withdrew a bill that would have imposed heavy sentences, including death, on homosexuals.
In majority Christian Malawi an openly gay couple was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison based on a colonial era law that banned “unnatural acts.” The sentence was retracted amid international retribution, The Christian Science Monitor said.
Aside from Christian fundamentalist preachers, The Washington Post blames the rapid growth of Islam in Africa, intolerance on the part of governments, and some politicians who are homophobic.
In Senegal and Gambia Christianity is a minority faith. But The Washington Post noted that in Senegal, the graves of homosexuals are sometimes desecrated, and in Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh said he will expel gays from the country and has urged citizens not to rent their homes to them.
In Cameroon, where 40 percent of the people practice traditional indigenous religion, and 40 percent are Christian, with the remaining 20 percent Muslim, gays have been assaulted by police and attacked by media, The Washington Post said.
Surprisingly, the exception is South Africa, where 80 percent of the population is Christian. South Africa was the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination against gays in their constitution, and is one of very few countries in the world where gay marriage is legal, The Washington Post said.
The situation leaves Christians challenged to carefully tread a thoughtful line in Africa where scripture is not filtered, but where leadership should call for love for all people including gays, and an end to violence against gays and to ensure that scripture is not used to tolerate injustice against homosexuals.