Religious Hostility to Gay Nigerians; The Pope’s Visit To Africa; Ireland’s Religious Schools Can’t Discriminate Against Gays; Orthodox Church in Georgia Leads Anti-Gay Forces; Global LGBT Recap

International Human Rights Day is Thursday, December 10. On Saturday, December 12, OutRight International (formerly IGLHRC) is holding a global activist gathering in New York, OutSummit: Pushing the Boundaries for Global LGBTIQ Activism.

Nigeria: Report on anti-gay violence and extortion

PBS special correspondent Nick Schifrin reported on violence and extortion against gay Nigerians from law enforcement officials as well as Christian and Muslim groups.

NICK SCHIFRIN: In Bauchi, Nigeria this House of God has become a home for hate. Do you believe that gay men deserve the same rights as everyone else?

JOSHUA MAINA, Reverend, Bauchi Christian Association: The gay man knows that because of his practices, he has no right equal to another person.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Reverend Joshua Maina leads the state’s 50,000 Christians. As his service begins, the band starts a hymn about Christ’s sacrifice and then it delivers a warning: “end times are here.” Reverend Maina says they’re here because of one thing.

JOSHUA MAINA: Homosexuality, sodomy. It is evil to this country. It is evil to our culture. It is evil to what we believe and that is Christianity. It is evil to what we inherited from our fathers. It is evil against anything that we hold so dear. Preach against them. Stand against them. If you want to go by them, the wrath of god will fall upon you.

JOSHUA MAINA: If there is a gay, you judge him based on the law of the land, and if the land says he should be killed, leave that one to the law enforcement agent.

NICK SCHIFRIN: The problem is that’s exactly what’s happened. Last January, Nigeria made same-sex marriage and advocating for gay rights crimes. Since then, nobody’s been sentenced, but police, State-sponsored vigilantes, even public mobs are accused of exploiting the law to abuse and extort. In another video, a mob accuses a man of being gay and then the accusers take off their belts. Gay Nigerians say since the law was passed this kind of abuse has become common, and not just by vigilantes.

BRIAN IFENNA: They beat me. They would hit me with a gun on my body. One of them wanted to take a plywood to put on my ass because he said I should lie down.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Brian Ifenna says police officers picked him off the street and beat him inside this police station.

BRIAN IFENNA: The law has given them the right to do what they want to do to anyone who is an LGBT person.

Schifrin says things are even worse for LGBT people who live in one of Nigeria’s Muslim communities, where vigilante violence is a serious threat. He notes that under Nigeria’s anti-gay laws, he could be sentenced for 10 years in prison for even meeting with a group of gay people.

Ireland: Religious schools, organizations lose exemption from nondiscrimination law

Ireland’s legislature passed a bill that would make it illegal for religious school to discriminate against gay teachers. The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill would also, according to the Irish Times, mean that “members of the LGBT community, divorcees and single parents working in schools and hospitals under religious patronage could not be discriminated against.”

Labour TD Eric Byrne said years ago some members of the Dáil made the mistake of empowering the Catholic Church to discriminate against LGBT teachers.

More from Pink News:

Section 37 of the existing law grants specific exemptions from sections protecting LGBT people to “religious, educational or medical institutions” – permitting them to discriminate “in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution”.

However, the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – which passed through its final stages in the Dáil late last night without opposition – strips the exemptions from the law.

The minister said he hopes the bill will remove the “chilling effect” of discrimination, telling the Irish Times: “I am proud of this Bill, having spent four years of my career bringing it to the eventuality it will become tonight.”

Africa: Commentary on the Pope’s visit, Catholic Church role on the continent

Paul Vallely, author of “Pope Francis: The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism,” declared in a New York Times op ed that the pope’s visit to Africa was a missed opportunity in which he offered “deafening silence” on the way gay people are treated in many countries.

His defenders will say that gay rights are a Western obsession and that it would have been counterproductive for Francis to raise the matter on such a brief visit to a continent which is hostile to the pope’s desire to make the Roman Catholic Church more welcoming to people who are gay, or divorced or cohabiting without being married. But that is wrong. How gays are treated is fundamental to the future of the universal church — and Pope Francis knows it.

Vallely wrote that he recognized that the Pope is pursuing multiple objectives, but said the issue of homosexuality in the Africa is important to the future of the church for a number of reasons:

It may well be that Pope Francis decided that a six-day whistle-stop tour of Africa was not the place to raise an issue of such delicacy. Debate on the place of gays in the church would require time for a more softer, gradualist approach.

But the issue is a double impediment for Francis — and one which he should have begun publicly to address. It is a massive human rights injustice because homophobia is endemic in Africa; most countries there, including the three he visited, have laws against homosexuality. In Uganda a measure signed into law last year by its president compelled citizens to report suspected homosexual activity to the police. Increased levels of violence against the gay community ensued.

For Francis such attitudes are an additional problem inside the Catholic Church, where they are a brake on the changes the pope wants to bring to the unruly institution he governs. It is a deeply entrenched problem when African leaders like Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, a man whom Francis has promoted, turn around and declare that “Western homosexual and abortion ideologies, and Islamic fanaticism” are to the 21st century what the twin “beasts” of Nazi and Communist ideology were to the 20th century.

The pope ought to have, at the very least, set down a marker that such bigotry has no place within the church. Instead he has let this vociferous minority paint him into a corner. Francis’s defenders suggest that he made tangential reference to the persecution of gay people in a sermon in which he said that “as members of God’s family, we are to assist one another, to protect one another.” But as an appeal against discrimination that was highly oblique in a debate where opponents of the tolerance of homosexuals are brutal and direct. Indeed many of them will take his support for marriage, in his address in Uganda, as implicit support for their anti-gay stance. And they will feel the same about his attack on “new forms of colonialism” in Kenya, by which he means the imposition of Western values on women’s sexual health in return for international aid packages.

Africa is set to become an increasing force within Catholicism. Pope Francis missed the chance to underscore the breadth of the message of love, mercy and inclusion it needs to embrace to become an accepted member of the universal church.

Conservative Catholic commentator Phil Lawler cited Vallely’s column as “Exhibit A” of gay rights as a “western obsession.”

Newsweek’s Conor Gaffey, reporting on Pope Francis’s recent visit to Africa, notes the “explosive growth” of Catholicism on the continent over the past 35 years.  Among the reasons for the Church’s success are its major presence in education and healthcare, and “its willingness to be inclusive and syncretize local traditions into the broader framework of Catholic faith.”

Examples include churches decorated with pictures of Jesus depicted as an African, and unique liturgical styles—such as the so-called “Congolese Rite”—being approved by Rome, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The Catholic Church is a very African institution in Africa,” says Gina Zurlo, associate director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. “When people are looking at Catholicism, they can say, ‘I can still be African and Catholic at the same time.’ You don’t have to become Western.”

… Africa looks set to remain the Catholic Church’s beacon of hope for the foreseeable future. The CARA report predicts that by 2040, almost one in four Africans will be Catholic, putting the continent’s total Catholic population at 460 million.

Georgia: Orthodox Church resists cultural shifts on LGBT equality, sometimes violently

Organizers of the World Congress of Families, which met in Salt Lake City in October, announced at the end of the conference that next year’s gathering would be held in Tlibisi, Georgia. This week, Tom Ana, writing in Muftah, examines the role of the Georgian Orthodox Church in resisting LGBT equality and inciting a violent attack on a pro-LGBT rally in 2013; four attackers were acquitted by a court in October.

Four of the main individuals accused of inciting the violence, as well as a fifth priest whose case was dropped earlier for lack of evidence, were active members of the Georgian Orthodox Church. One, Irakli Basilaia, is a prominent Church abbot.

If the incident and accompanying violence has prompted any remorse or soul-searching from the Georgian Orthodox Church, it is not yet evident. Far from shying away from the issue, the Church has openly accepted its role in the violence. The priests who organized the counter-demonstration were acting on calls from the Church’s Patriarch that the event be banned by authorities. Footage taken on the day also shows Church members proudly leading the anti-gay protestors.

The attack, together with the government’s response, were widely criticized by the international community. At the same time, the event also highlighted a significant disconnect between the Georgian government’s aims for progressive change and a desire among average citizens to uphold traditional values dictated by the Church. These issues raise real questions about whether Georgia is prepared, as a nation, for real social change.

Ana described Patriarch Ilia II as one of the most outspoken opponents of LGBT rights in the country, even though he has generally been a supporter of western ties and integration with Europe.

Before the 2013 attacks, Ana writes, there seemed to be “a slow but steady national shift in favor of progressive values” and greater tolerance toward the LGBT community.

But just beneath the surface, the ever-present conservative elements of Georgian society were growing increasingly reactionary. Priests and influential members of the church were speaking out against solidarity demonstrations in support of the LGBT community. Many members of the Church were angered by what they viewed as the normalization and promotion of a ‘lifestyle’ that seemed to be in opposition to their values.

It is that anger that led to the May 17 attack.

Ana says the attack “was and is still viewed by the Church as a clash of cultures, a justified defense of Georgian tradition in the face of encroaching Western influence.”

ISIS: Executions of gay men continue; cited by UK’s Cameron in debate on military action

Bassem Mroue reports for Associated Press on the ongoing targeting and killing of gay men by Islamic State militants. Mroue interviewed a Syrian man who has fled to Turkey:

Life for gays in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, was always hidden, Halaby said. When the secular-led peaceful protests erupted against President Bashar Assad in 2011, he said he quickly joined, sure they would lead to a democratic government “that will respect everyone no matter their religion, ethnicity, sect or sexuality.”

“We were very naive,” he said. “What happened was exactly the opposite.”

ISIS has made a show of its public killings, frequently by throwing gay men off the roofs of high buildings before crowds waiting to stone them.

“They are violating God’s laws and doing something that is forbidden in Islam, so this is a legitimate punishment,” said Hajji Mohammed, a resident of the IS-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. There the group has thrown men suspected of being gay off the Insurance Building, a landmark about 10 stories high.

By employing the grisly method, the Islamic State group aims to show radicals that it is unflinchingly carrying out the most extreme strains in Islam — a sort of “ideological purity” the group boasts distinguishes it even from other militants. The punishment “will protect the Muslims from treading the same rotten course that the West has chosen to pursue,” IS proclaimed in its online English-language magazine Dabiq.

Pink News reported that UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron cited the practice during House of Commons debate on military action against ISIS.

Speaking in the Commons, the PM said that humanitarian aid could not restore order in Syria until the group, which he refers to as Daesh, has been defeated.

He said: “I set out for the house last week our support for refugees in the region, the extra $1 billion we’d be prepared to commit to Syria’s reconstruction, and the broad international alliance we’d be prepared to work with in the rebuilding phase.

“Let us be clear: people will not return to Syria if part of it is under the control of an organisation that enslaves Yazidis, throws gay people off buildings, beheads aid workers, and forces children to marry before they are even ten years old.

“We cannot separate the humanitarian work from dealing with Daesh itself.”

Malta: Catholic Bishop says “experience of God” more important than church as “moral agency”

Mario Grech, Bishop of Goso, told the Sunday Times of Malta, that the Church should embrace divorced and gay couples and welcome all those genuinely seeking God.

Touching on controversial issues like gay relationships and the role of divorced couples, which exposed the split between conservative and progressive factions within the Church, Mgr Grech says people must see the shades of grey in the debate.

He adds that the Church must also embrace gay couples who want their adopted children to have a Christian education, through the administration of sacraments like baptism, holy communion and confirmation.

In the interview, Grech addressed questions about whether offering Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics would be, as Cardinal Raymond Burke has declared, a fundamental departure from Catholic teaching, asking, “Shouldn’t these people have another opportunity to start a fresh experience and aspire to be loyal and faithful in line with the teachings of God?” Regarding gay relationships, Grech said:

The synod said very little about this matter for the simple reason that any further focus could have seriously jeopardised the approval of the entire document. In fact, the 2014 synod delved into much more detail on this issue.

This year the synod said that families who have homosexual members need to be supported, their decisions respected and not hindered in any way. The important thing is to be sincere and fully committed to live the gospel. Why should this be a source of disagreement within the Church?

Grech said that “of course” gay couples in a civil union are welcome in the Church even though marriage “can only be referred to when talking about heterosexual couples.” More from the Q&A:

So should we also expect to see gay couples accompanying adopted children at holy communions, baptisms or confirmation?

Yes. This is already happening and is fully accepted by the Church. The child or baby should not be held accountable for their parents’ deeds, decisions or way of life. Why should the Church deny the opportunity for same-sex parents wishing to give a Christian formation to their adopted children? They are most welcome. This is why the synod tried to give a new lease of life to those who are genuinely looking for God.

But wouldn’t such an approach be condoning same-sex relationships and at the same time be perceived as the Church bending over backwards to accommodate these people?

No. Mercy is not populism. We are not seeking to boost church attendance at all costs. This is the gospel. Certain choices are not the result of the example being set by others, but reflect the fact that we believe in certain values. This is why great emphasis must be placed on Christian formation. My dream is to make people long once again for God’s goodness. When people discover this beauty many things will fall into place, though I can’t see this happening within my lifetime.

But is there not the risk that the Church may lose its role as a moral compass in society?

Here lies a problem as this question bears the mark of a lay person, which is the same attitude still harboured in sections of the clergy. Before being a moral agency, the Church is an experience of God. I fear that at certain times we have put the cart before the horse as we speak on moral obligations but leave no room for mercy and forgiveness. The Church must be different. If God is at the centre of our lives all other things would naturally follow.

India: Catholic Cardinal says homosexuality should be decriminalized

Cardinal Oswald Garcias, Archbishop of Mumbai, told a national gathering of Catholic bishops that homosexuality should not be criminalized, reports Joseph Patrick McCormick at Pink News:

He went on to say: “personally I feel that it should not be criminalised. For me it’s a question of understanding that it’s an orientation … I know there is still research being done whether it’s a matter of choice or matter of orientation and there are two opinions on this matter. But I believe maybe people have this orientation that God has given them and for this reason they should not be ostracised from society.”

Going on the Cardinal said he thinks there is a lack of understanding within the church on LGBT issues.

“The church has always said people should not be discriminated against and I know the Vatican itself is not for criminalisation of these people. I have to make a distinction of course. Catholic theology makes sexual morality rather clear.”

Last Sunday’s pride parade in New Delhi celebrated LGBT community gains while demanding repeal of the reinstated colonial era law that criminalizes homosexual activity.

Bermuda: Pastor supports son’s push for marriage equality, cites ‘whole Jesus concept’

Ijumo Hayward and Clarence Williams III, a gay couple, filed notice of their intention to marry, with plans to take their case to the Supreme Court. A human rights attorney told the Royal Gazette that their case is likely to succeed because the courts have increasingly ruled in favor of equality for same-sex couples. . The mother of one of them is an ordained pastor who said she will perform the ceremony next summer if they clear the legal hurdles.

The mother of two said it was coincidental that the application was made in the same week that a prominent American same-sex marriage opponent, Ryan Anderson, was giving two talks here and just days after a Supreme Court ruling that same-sex partners of Bermudians should be given the same rights as heterosexual spouses.

She added: “This island is odd.”

Ms Hayward-Harris said it was “very courageous of both of them” to make the application and potentially make legal history as the first gay couple to get permission to marry in Bermuda.

“In one sense, I am not surprised that my son would step forward like that. He’s just been that kind of guy. He is self-contained and he’s not worried about public approval or disapproval, which I really appreciate. I wasn’t as brave when I was young but stepping forward and trying to do the right thing is something to really be applauded for.”

She said she has heard from critics:

“I feel for those who live here, who have to deal with it on a regular basis,” she said. “I have already had phone calls from irate family members: ‘how could I perform the ceremony, didn’t I know this was wrong and not biblical’. I have, in my studies, a different interpretation of a lot of what people say the Bible says.

“I believe in the whole Jesus concept. You love people and there is no judgment. They have their belief system and I have mine and I’m living true to mine.”

Dominican Republic: Catholic Cardinal disses openly gay U.S. Ambassador

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo called the openly gay US Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster “a man’s wife” and suggested he should “stick to housework.”

Netherlands: Gays from Middle East face threats from fellow refugees

Five gay men — three from Syria, one from Iraq, and one from Iran — were relocated from a refugee center in Amsterdam after the Salvation Army said it could not guarantee their safety.  The Dutch News reported that they had been spit on and attacked by other refugees, a recurring problem this year.

A spokesman from the Salvation Army said: “They often don’t dare to leave their rooms.”

Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff, said that he did not support the idea of separating gay refugees because it is “stigmatising”.

Reports suggest that other gay refugees, including in Rotterdam, will also be rehoused this weekend, and that others in Amsterdam were re-homed earlier this year.

Russia: St. Petersburg activists defy propaganda law

The Guardian’s Sasha Raspopina reported last week on gay rights activists who have kept the Bok o Bok (Side by Side) film festival going in St. Petersburg in spite of threats of violence and Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law.

This year’s festival made headlines after Vitaly Milonov, a local MP and the author of the controversial law, crashed the opening night on 19 November and tried to break into the cinema. A video appears to show him shouting “underage children could be inside!” at a policeman trying to hold him back.

“We always have to have spare venues reserved for emergencies,” Sultanova says. “Spaces cancel on us because they get pressure from the above, or receive bomb threats, or just get scared of the consequences.”

… Several cultural events such as Kubana festival and the Artdocfest have recently moved out of Russia because of what they called “government pressure”. However, De Guerre says that Bok o Bok festival is not going anywhere. “No, the festival was founded here, it’s meant to help Russian people and the LGBT community here, and we can’t give up now.”

Organizers told the Guardian that their efforts over the years have won them some wider following in the community and better cooperation from local police, even as they are attacked by politicians and the media.

Bermuda: Gay couple makes push for marriage equality

Ijumo Hayward and Clarence Williams III, a gay couple, filed notice of their intention to marry, with plans to take their case to the Supreme Court. A human rights attorney told the Royal Gazette that their case is likely to succeed because the courts have increasingly ruled in favor of equality for same-sex couples. . The mother of one of them is an ordained pastor who said she will perform the ceremony next summer if they clear the legal hurdles.

The mother of two said it was coincidental that the application was made in the same week that a prominent American same-sex marriage opponent, Ryan Anderson, was giving two talks here and just days after a Supreme Court ruling that same-sex partners of Bermudians should be given the same rights as heterosexual spouses.

She added: “This island is odd.”

Ms Hayward-Harris said it was “very courageous of both of them” to make the application and potentially make legal history as the first gay couple to get permission to marry in Bermuda.

“In one sense, I am not surprised that my son would step forward like that. He’s just been that kind of guy. He is self-contained and he’s not worried about public approval or disapproval, which I really appreciate. I wasn’t as brave when I was young but stepping forward and trying to do the right thing is something to really be applauded for.”

She said she has heard from critics:

“I feel for those who live here, who have to deal with it on a regular basis,” she said. “I have already had phone calls from irate family members: ‘how could I perform the ceremony, didn’t I know this was wrong and not biblical’. I have, in my studies, a different interpretation of a lot of what people say the Bible says.

“I believe in the whole Jesus concept. You love people and there is no judgment. They have their belief system and I have mine and I’m living true to mine.”

Brunei: US officials discuss human rights, death-to-gays penal code

U.S. officials, including the ambassador to Brunei, discussed human rights issues with Bruneian officials at a November 30 meeting in London. The new penal code includes a death penalty for those convicted of sodomy.

Northern Ireland: Legal challenge to marriage ban moves forward

Two gay couples were granted permission for a judicial review of their challenge to laws that do not permit same-sex couples to marry. Northern Ireland was the first region of the United Kingdom to recognized same-sex couples with civil partnerships, but it now the only UK jurisdiction without marriage equality.

Japan: Politician apologizes after drunk-tweeting anti-gay insult

We reported last week that a poll had shown a slim majority of Japanese support marriage equality. A politician who says he was drunk and angry about the poll result tweeted that the press should ignore LGBT people, who he described as “abnormal animals.” He has since apologized but rejected calls that he resign.

Slovenia: Opponents of marriage equality lead in poll

A poll released on November 30 suggests that opponents of marriage equality have an 11-point lead as the country heads toward a referendum later this month.

Australia: Gay man elected to lower House

In Australia, where the debate over marriage equality has been roiling for a long time, Trent Zimmerman was elected to the Parliament, becoming the first out gay member of Australia’s lower House, reports Pink News.

 

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