Category Archives: Religion

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Nigeria: Chibok, A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters

Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
 Women across Nigeria are protesting the abduction of 234 schoolgirls from Chibok, in north east Nigeria, which took place on Monday April
the 14th. Starting from Wednesday the 30th of April, protests and rallies are planned in Abuja, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Kano, Lagos, Kaduna,
Benin.

A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters – Statement by Women of Peace And Justice

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Since Monday 14th April 2014 when over 200 young female students from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State were abducted by heavily armed men, millions around the world have been unable to come to terms with the loss and the implications of this loss. Today, millions of Nigerian women and men call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to find and bring back these girls currently living in captivity.

These young girls are daughters, sisters, nieces; tomorrow’s women and mothers. Those directly affected grieve, and we as Nigerians and human beings, join them in their anguish and distress. We want them back. Safe in their homes where they belong.

The trend of conflicting information about the exact number of girls who are still missing and even the operations are regrettable. The fact that as yet, no credible claim of responsibility for the abduction of these girls has been made is equally disturbing. This makes it an imperative for all Nigerians to amplify and demand of those with the responsibility for the safety of all Nigerians to ACT and CONSTRUCTIVELY engage to find and return these girls to their parents.

As citizens it is our right and responsibility to ask the following questions which have been on the lips and on the minds of millions around the world. This is even as we wait, with baited breath, to be informed about the fate of these young girls whose only crime is striving for an education:

How is it possible in the age of drones, Google Maps, and aerial surveillance that over 200 girls will vanish without a trace? Is this suggestive of the weaknesses of security operations covering soft targets such as schools even after clear indications of their vulnerability?
Why was protection for our children in schools in the N.E not intensified even after the devastation and pain of the 59 innocent children murdered in FGC Buni Yadi on February 25 2014?
How is it that security is not upgraded around institutions even when warnings of potential threat or imminent aggressions are issued? The warning after Buni Yadi that girls would be targeted or that Giwa Baracks in Madiguri are two cases in point.
What is the rational explanation that in a location (Borno State) under a state of emergency; 4 trucks and numerous motor bikes can deploy, move in convoy, unleash terror on the school at Chibok and then flee with over 200 girls to a location yet to be determined by Nigeria’s security institutions?
Where are or what has happened to the much mentioned assistance to the Federal Government or collaboration with friendly governments ?
Why, despite the massive increase in security spending, (up to N1trillion in 2013 and N845 Billion in 2014), are Nigerians not safer; while our security and military personnel are said to be under equipped and ill prepared to face the ever growing security challenges confronting Nigeria?
What support plans are being made to cater for the emotional needs and management of the trauma the parents of these girls must be going through?
The Chibok incidence is CRITICAL as well as a stark reality of the vulnerability of all Nigerians but most especially innocent children seeking to actualize their right to education towards a potential improvement of quality life. There is a need to scale up security efforts and sustain vigilance until ALL the girls are found. They cannot be abandoned and all Nigerians must share in their agony and in the anguish of their immediate families. The media must step up its act especially in reporting and constructive investigative journalism.

We recognize the complexities and dangers in security and military operations, however it is our firm belief that these institutions hold in high esteem the value of Nigerian lives as well our sovereignty being their primary mandate. The reading from Chibok is WE, ALL, including the military and security personnel are at great RISK of being consumed by the aggression of those in ambush of our peace and prosperity. Extra measures that remain within the legal limits of operations and counter insurgency/terrorism must be employed. Citizens must remain vigilant and supportive of the institutions of security at all times.

We speak out today and will do so every day until these girls are ALL accounted for. As mothers, fathers and siblings we call for the urgent and complete end to the politicization of the insecurity in Nigeria. OUR pain and solution are collective.

Updates on twitter at #BringBackOur Girls and #FreeOurGirls

Behind the Christian Right in Africa

From Foreign Policy in Focus,”It’s Not Just Uganda: Behind the Christian Right’s Onslaught in Africa” by Nathalie Baptiste

In Uganda, being gay can now earn you a lifetime in prison.

Last month, the East African country was again thrust into the international spotlight after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a draconian bill that criminalized homosexuality. The high profile, on-and-off battle over the so-called “kill the gays” bill has drawn headlines for years as the most extreme example in a wave of antigay legislation on the continent. But homophobia in Africa is not merely an African problem.

As the gay rights movement has gained traction in the United States, the more virulently homophobic ideologies of the religious right have been pushed further out of the mainstream and into fringe territory. But as their influence has waned at home, right-wing evangelists from the United States have been flexing their sanctimonious muscles influencing policymakers in Africa.

For years now, evangelical activists from the United States have been injecting themselves into African politics, speaking out against homosexuality and cheering on antigay legislation on the continent. The influence of these groups has been well documented in Uganda. The now-defunct Exodus International, for example, sent Don Schmierer, a board member, to Uganda in 2009 to speak at a conference alongside Scott Lively, a pastor who was later sued by a Ugandan gay rights group for his role in promoting human rights violations against LGBTQ people. The two participated in a disturbing anti-gay conference, where speakers blamed homosexuals for the rise of Nazism and the Rwandan genocide, among other abhorrent acts. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a hard-right Christian group that is active in U.S. politics as well, similarly supported anti-gay laws in Uganda. At the peak of controversy over the “kill the gays” bill, Perkins praised the Ugandan president for “leading his nation to repentance.”

But such groups aren’t just active in Uganda. They have promoted antigay legislation in Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, just to name a few other places. The support ranges from popular agitation and sideline cheerleading to outright intervention.

In 2010, for example, when Zimbabwe began the process of drafting a new constitution, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)—a Christian law firm founded by evangelist Pat Robertson—launched a Zimbabwean counterpart called the African Centre for Law and Justice. The outpost trained lawyers for the express purpose of putting a Christian stamp on the draft of the new constitution.

The African Centre joined forces with the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), an indigenous organization, to promote constitutional language affirming that Zimbabwe is a Christian nation and ensuring that homosexuality remained illegal. These and other hardline views are outlined in a pamphlet distributed by the EFZ and ACLJ. Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of ACLJ, announced that his organization would lobby for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in political and religious circles in the event of any controversy over the provisions, despite the fact that the Zimbabwean president has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for violating human rights. Last year, Zimbabwe’s new constitution, which includes a ban on gay marriage, was approved by an overwhelming popular vote.

ACLJ’s Kenyan-based offshoot, the East African Center for Law and Justice (EACLJ), made an effort to lobby against Kenya’s progressive new constitution as well. In April 2010, a report on the group’s website called homosexuality “unacceptable” and “foreign” and called for the Kenyan constitution to clearly define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus closing the door on future laws that could attempt to legalize same-sex marriage. In this case the ECLJ was unsuccessful, and the new constitution was approved without any language regarding same-sex marriage.

Pat Robertson’s entanglements in Africa go well beyond Zimbabwe and Kenya.

In 1960, Robertson created The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which broadcasts through cable and satellite to over 200 countries. Robertson is a co-host on the 700 Club, arguably CBN’s most popular show. From his perch on the show, Roberts has made a seemingly endless variety of inflammatory remarks about LGBTQ people and just about everyone else that does not fall in line with his own religious thinking.

In the United States, Robertson’s vitriol can be brushed aside as the antiquated ravings of a fringe figure. Not so in much of Africa. A survey conducted in 2010 found that 74 million people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, had watched at least one CBN show in the previous year. That’s a remarkable reach considering Nigeria is home to over 80 million Christians…….

Robertson’s influence plays into an increasingly hostile political climate for gays in the country. Last January, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which provides punishments of up to 14 years imprisonment for a gay marriage and up to 10 years for membership in or encouragement of gay clubs and organizations. The enactment of the law was followed by a wave of arrests of gay men—and widespread denouncement from the international community. Continue Reading

 

“When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital”

a brief scientific history of deamons.

Binyavanga Wainaina on the scientific history of African deamons

Ivan Forde

Image by Ivan Forde

When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital, and was able to climb into optic fibers. Homosexuality deamon learns fast. Full of trickery. Read a lot and decided to convert from simple analogue deamonhood, to an actual ideology. Homosexuality demon is by this time quite African, a middle class one, likes old colonial houses, comfy hotels, really likes imported things. Homosexuality deamon decided to occupy son of a pastor to a scholarship in the Netherlands where they ate cheese, wore clogs and smoked bang. While smoking bhang and at tenting philosophy they came up with a Homosexual ideology. They called it Gayism and Lesbianism. Homosexuality deamon and son of Pastor knew that Africans would never accept them unless they were imported and western. So they bought skinny jeans and balanced trousers.

Flight back to Nairobi (first class with NGO money), they were attacked overflying Sudan, by a chariot of male African homosexuality deamons. It was very traumatising – a bunch of Wolof speakers afro-deamons, some Azande, some refused to say. Two Kings. Shaka and Kabaka Mwanga. So. they were hijacked and taken to a hotel in Entebbe. They were taught many things, secret Baganda things, warrior-like Zulu things. Kabaka Mwanga said he really liked young boys, pages. He liked girls too. Actually he liked a feast of flesh.

So, deamon of Homosexuality (French mum, English dad) and Pastor’s Son were very well educated. Shaka, they learned was into pain: thorns, shot spear stabs, soulful war cries. He taught them geopolitics and how to shield their websites. Shaka was not into women. Hated lesbians. Kabaka mwanga hated white people, kept trying to poison Imported Homosexual deamon. He really hated Catholic priests. They killed his lovers. The things they did in the Cathedral!Over two weeks in Entebbe, they used social media to spread Afro-homosexualism everywhere with a few dutch techniques…………Continue on Brittle Paper

 

I can’t honestly say what this is. Really. You just have to read and make of it what you will. Looks like Binyavanga was possessed by Marechera’s spirit or something. The most I can say is that when storytelling tips over the edge of prophecy, you get this.

#BrazeYourself

Ivan Forde

So the deamon for homosexuality, is it French? Coz many Pentecostals say it is not African. Now, the deamon of homosexuality—I’m thinking it came on a ship, coz deamons must be hosted by a body. They just can’t arrive by teleporting. Bible Scientists who know the field very well have deeply researched ALL African knowledge and are sure Gay deamon DID indeed come from the West. Scientists and experts on Bible Africa are sure Homo deamon was imported. I’m not sure though whether by plane or ship. Container number? Homosexuality deamon could very well have arrived, not in a container (carrying Friesian bulls maybe?), it could have come with passengers. Homosexuality deamon must have sat around bored for a long long time occupying one or two people, until the internet arrived.

When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital, and was able to climb into optic fibers. Homosexuality deamon learns fast. Full of trickery. Read a lot and decided to convert from simple analogue deamonhood, to an actual ideology. Homosexuality demon is by this time quite African, a middle class one, likes old colonial houses, comfy hotels, really likes imported things. Homosexuality deamon decided to occupy son of a pastor to a scholarship in the Netherlands where they ate cheese, wore clogs and smoked bang. While smoking bhang and at tenting philosophy they came up with a Homosexual ideology. They called it Gayism and Lesbianism. Homosexuality deamon and son of Pastor knew that Africans would never accept them unless they were imported and western. So they bought skinny jeans and balanced trousers.

Flight back to Nairobi (first class with NGO money), they were attacked overflying Sudan, by a chariot of male African homosexuality deamons. It was very traumatising – a bunch of Wolof speakers afro-deamons, some Azande, some refused to say. Two Kings. Shaka and Kabaka Mwanga. So. they were hijacked and taken to a hotel in Entebbe. They were taught many things, secret Baganda things, warrior-like Zulu things. Kabaka Mwanga said he really liked young boys, pages. He liked girls too. Actually he liked a feast of flesh.

- See more at: http://brittlepaper.com/2014/01/african-homosexual-deamon-binyavangas-treatise-demonology/#sthash.gL5YBZ0u.dpuf

I can’t honestly say what this is. Really. You just have to read and make of it what you will. Looks like Binyavanga was possessed by Marechera’s spirit or something. The most I can say is that when storytelling tips over the edge of prophecy, you get this.

#BrazeYourself

Ivan Forde

So the deamon for homosexuality, is it French? Coz many Pentecostals say it is not African. Now, the deamon of homosexuality—I’m thinking it came on a ship, coz deamons must be hosted by a body. They just can’t arrive by teleporting. Bible Scientists who know the field very well have deeply researched ALL African knowledge and are sure Gay deamon DID indeed come from the West. Scientists and experts on Bible Africa are sure Homo deamon was imported. I’m not sure though whether by plane or ship. Container number? Homosexuality deamon could very well have arrived, not in a container (carrying Friesian bulls maybe?), it could have come with passengers. Homosexuality deamon must have sat around bored for a long long time occupying one or two people, until the internet arrived.

When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital, and was able to climb into optic fibers. Homosexuality deamon learns fast. Full of trickery. Read a lot and decided to convert from simple analogue deamonhood, to an actual ideology. Homosexuality demon is by this time quite African, a middle class one, likes old colonial houses, comfy hotels, really likes imported things. Homosexuality deamon decided to occupy son of a pastor to a scholarship in the Netherlands where they ate cheese, wore clogs and smoked bang. While smoking bhang and at tenting philosophy they came up with a Homosexual ideology. They called it Gayism and Lesbianism. Homosexuality deamon and son of Pastor knew that Africans would never accept them unless they were imported and western. So they bought skinny jeans and balanced trousers.

Flight back to Nairobi (first class with NGO money), they were attacked overflying Sudan, by a chariot of male African homosexuality deamons. It was very traumatising – a bunch of Wolof speakers afro-deamons, some Azande, some refused to say. Two Kings. Shaka and Kabaka Mwanga. So. they were hijacked and taken to a hotel in Entebbe. They were taught many things, secret Baganda things, warrior-like Zulu things. Kabaka Mwanga said he really liked young boys, pages. He liked girls too. Actually he liked a feast of flesh.

- See more at: http://brittlepaper.com/2014/01/african-homosexual-deamon-binyavangas-treatise-demonology/#sthash.gL5YBZ0u.dpuf

Interview with Haitian historian Bayyinah Bello

Bayyinah Bello with Professor Leonard Jeffries
Bayyinah Bello with Professor Leonard Jeffries

Bayyinah Bello first traveled to Africa at the age of 12 to join her father in Liberia. She later returned as an adult first to Nigeria where she lived for four years and later to Benin, Togo and other countries in the region. In total she spent 15 years living on the continent. In retrospect, her journey was a circular one in search of Ayiti and it’s indigious belief system, Vodou. Bayyinah discusses her experience and research into religions beginning with Islam, Hinduism and later African belief systems including Vodou as practiced in the Kingdom of Dahomey [now Benin]. She is founder of Fondasyon Felicite, named after the wife of revolutionary hero Jean Jacques Desslaines, Marie Claire Heureuse Felicite Bonheur Dessalines, The foundation is part of Bayyinah’s insistence that to ” knowing is doing” or to know is to do. In this case to know the true history of Ayiti beginning before colonization, before slavery, before the indigenous Taino peope were wiped out by the occupaying forces of Europe, up to the present post 2010 earthquake and invasion of new colonizers in the form of NGOs and missionaries. For Bayyinah, Ayiti’s future is bound with the past, a past born in Africa and lived through African belief systems and not those used to colonize our minds.

Museveni and reconstruction of homophobic colonial legacy in Africa

From Pambazuka News,  “Museveni and reconstruction of homophobic colonial legacy in Africa: Which way progressives?”  Horace Campbell on the passing of ‘legizlations of hate” in Uganda and Nigeria exposes the historical roots of right wing American Christian fundamentalists which goes back to lynching of Black Americans, a Eurgenic agenda  support of Apartheid and demonisation of Haitians and the 1804 independence.

As the legalization of hate towards same-gender loving persons gains traction in parts of Africa, it is the task of Pan African progressives and decent humans everywhere to expose this orchestrated destructive cultural war. This assault, fomented by some of the most conservative and racist Christian fundamentalists in America, is an attempt to reconstruct the divisive homophobic colonial legacy in Africa. This wave of extremism is in the same category as the activities of some of the most conservative Muslim fundamentalists who attempt to sponsor the imposition of archaic religious laws on Africans. In the midst of the confusion and moral façade under which these religious fanatics operate, the progressive Pan Africanist must speak up decisively. Two weeks ago Pambazuka News carried a splendid issue opposing this wave of hate and I want to join in opposing this legislation of hatred and intolerance. More than thirteen years ago when the Black Radical Congress was still a vibrant political force in the USA it had issued the statement, ‘African Leaders Hide Political Woes Behind Homophobia.’ [1]

On February 20, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill also dubbed as ‘Jail the Gays Bill,’ criminalizing same-sex relationships with up to life imprisonment. This Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 (previously called the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ in the media due to the originally proposed death penalty clauses), was originally passed by the Parliament of Uganda on 20 December 2013. Because of the international outcry over the death penalty proposal in the bill, this death penalty clause was dropped in favour of life in prison. One day after Museveni signed this bill into law, a Ugandan newspaper published a list of what it called the country’s 200 top homosexuals, outing some people who previously had not identified themselves as gay. This came only weeks after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a similar bill that would punish same-gender loving persons with up to 14 years in prison.

After signing the bill, Museveni referred to gays as ‘disgusting’ human beings, while suggesting that his action was intended ‘to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation.’ Museveni echoed an irony when he categorically stated that ‘we do not want anybody to impose their views on us.’ Janet and Yoweri Museveni have been supporters of the most conservative Christian fundamentalists in the USA and they have not been shy about their loyalty to these social elements in North America. [2] That Museveni was ready and willing to sign the original version of the bill was a reflection of the politics of retrogression in Uganda. That he equivocated with a statement about seeking scientific evidence on the sources of homosexuality was a demonstration of his insecurity and opportunism. This opportunism has been the trademark of Museveni since the days in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when he posed as the most radical anti-imperialist of the elements of the Dar es Salaam School. Ultimately, Museveni calculated that his alliance and loyalty to conservative Christian fundamentalists was more important than any kind of reasoning that he may have had with former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was crafted with the help and influence of some white supremacist, right wing Christian fundamentalists from the USA. [3] Prominent among these extremists was Scott Lively. Lively has since been charged for crimes against humanity in US court for his role in engineering the Uganda Anti-Gay Bill. [4]

The activities of American fundamentalists and individuals who influenced Ugandan leaders and helped craft the country’s anti-gay bills have been chronicled by researcher Kapya John Kaoma in the publications titled, ‘Colonizing African Values’. [5] (See also, by the same author, ‘Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia’.) [6] As noted by Kaoma, pioneers of the present wave of homophobia in Africa are ‘U.S. Christian Right figures including the internationally prominent Baptist pastor and bestselling author, Rick Warren; Scott Lively, the anti-gay, Holocaust revisionist; and Lou Engle, head of the revivalist group, The Call, and a leader in the right-wing New Apostolic Reformation movement…. [T]hey are contributing to the atmosphere of intolerance that is resulting in ‘instances of harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murders committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’”

This atmosphere of hate, discrimination, harassment, persecution and lynching was perfected by the white supremacist bred in a country – USA – that for nearly a century enshrined in its constitution and justified the notion that the black personhood is only 3/5th of a normal human being. It is against the backdrop of this inherent dehumanization associated with the legalization of hate that African progressives must stand up and speak out against the wave of anti-gay laws blowing across the continent from Zimbabwe to Cameroon, Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere.

Rights of same gender loving persons are human rights that are inextricably linked with the rights of every person in society. Yoweri Museveni’s claim on the anti-imperialist mantle comes from the silence of the progressive Pan-Africanist Left in Africa. Inside Uganda, Kizza Besigye, (a leader of the opposition) attacked the new laws signed by Museveni. He disputed the claim that homosexuality was ‘foreign’ and said the issue was being used to divert attention from domestic problems. Three years ago the Ugandan scholar, Sylvia Tamala, published the book ‘African Sexualities: A Reader’. [7] This ground breaking reader is still not widely known, and it will be important for many to read such works to engage this debate. What is significant is the stunning silence of well-known radicals in Uganda and East Africa on this criminalization of Africa’s LGBT community. Where are the scholars of the Dar es Salaam school on this issue?

South Africa has a progressive constitution that guarantees all people’s rights. But anywhere leaders are insecure they turn to bigotry, hate and the politics of exclusion to gain popularity. The most outrageous was Robert Mugabe who called homosexuals ‘pigs and dogs.’ And yet, many progressives still see Mugabe as a great revolutionary. More than ten years ago when I wrote on ‘Homophobia in Zimbabwe and the Politics of Intolerance,’ [8] some sections of the global Pan African movement objected and continued to praise Mugabe as anti-imperialist. In Nairobi, at a public meeting in 2011, young radicals from Bunge la Mwananchi (people’s parliament) were vociferous in their proclamation of intolerance to same-gender loving persons even while they were loudly opposing all other forms of oppression in Kenya.

Progressives in Africa must resist the ostensible moral appeal of the religious extremists and be humble enough to admit that there are some complex phenomena about human sexuality that require the critical questioning of popularly biased sentiments. There has to be an in-depth anthropological interrogation of generalizations and assumptions in present day Africa, as well as the probing of pre-colonial African societies and practices that were overshadowed by colonial laws and ordinances. Precolonial African societies were not homogenous but rather complex, diverse, and multidimensional. In the book, ‘Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society’, [9] anthropologist Ifi Amadiume sheds light on the fluidity of sexuality in a precolonial Ibo society. This conceptualization of flexible gender relations was a real breakthrough and more work needs to be done to expose the myths that there were no same-gender relationships in Africa before colonialism. Other works of anthropology have responded to Amadiume and have investigated the reality of sexuality in some precolonial African societies (see for example, ‘Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities’). [10]

Across Africa, the Western hegemons imposed their religion, languages, cultures and laws while demonizing or outlawing pre-existing practices. Most ‘educated’ Africans eventually internalized the Western ways, including the laws and religions that were bequeathed by colonialism. Societies such as Nigeria and Uganda were not an exception, and that is why same sex relationship was already not recognized by these countries’ constitutions which themselves are a colonial legacy. Thus, the promulgation of the anti-gay laws amounts to a reconstruction or reinforcement of a Western colonial legacy.

Many of the right wing American Christian fundamentalists that are financing and lobbying for the anti-gay laws in Africa are known for their eugenic agenda and were heavily in support of apartheid and destabilization in Africa during the Cold War. Some of them, including televangelist Pat Robertson, have not only opposed civil rights for Blacks in America but are also advocates of American exceptionalism and imperialism. It was the same Pat Robertson who at the time of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 said that there was the earthquake in Haiti because the people had signed a ‘pact to the devil.’ This was his understanding of the Haitian revolution which overthrew slavery and colonialism in 1804.

These conservative forces and their corporate backers are still working hard in America to reduce voting rights for blacks and browns, assault women’s and minorities’ rights, increase military budgets at the expense of funding for healthcare and education, as well as oppose programs and policies that benefit low wage workers and the exploited in the USA. They tend to be losing the culture war against the rising multi-racial tide in America, hence their intensification of the struggle in Africa. As one analyst puts it: ‘The U.S. culture wars are still not understood in African circles.’

While some tendencies within African Christianity share charismatic beliefs with U.S. Christian Right campaigners, the African Church in general is more social-justice-oriented and concerned about the exploited and the disenfranchised. Social justice and human rights advocates must expose the U.S. Christian Right’s opposition to social justice initiatives in the United States—and their historic alignment with White supremacist and repressive regimes in Africa.

Pan-Africanists and progressives cannot sit on the fence at this decisive moment. They must choose to be either in alliance with conservative forces opposed to social justice and equality or join forces with those who want equal rights and social justice for all Wole Soyinka has spoken out against these laws – which he referred to as ‘legislative zealotry.’ [11] In continuation of the tradition of their late father, the sons of Fela Kuti the Afrobeat maestro – Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti – have both made decisive statements against the anti-gay laws. [12] Author Chimamanda Adichie has done same. [13] It’s time for many more progressive Africans to take a stand.

Also see the Pambazuka Special issue : The Struggle for Homosexual Rights in Africa

 

The year of the homophobes

The Anti-Gay Law in Uganda and the Miracle of Denial from MarkFiore on Vimeo.

How US evangelicals wage war on gay people in Uganda – video

From the Guardian Africa Network

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Angelique Kidjo’s critique of homophobia

Speaking out against homophobia across the African region, award-wining Beninoise singer and activist

Angelique Kidjo – watch it here:

As she says, speaking to the ab(use) of religion – “”its not about God its about power”.

Haiti – Feminist Series 6, In conversation with Souzen Joseph

Souzen Joseph, photo by Sokari Ekine
Souzen Joseph, photo by Sokari Ekine ©

Souzen Joseph is an independent journalist, a musician, community activist and vodou practitioner.   In addition to her job at TNH [Haitian National TV], Souzen is the host of a weekly radio show covering all aspects of health and self-care produced by the Haitian Red Cross.  She is a founding member of a Haitian women’s intergenerational collective, ‘Back to Natural’ which works to encourage women to use Haitian traditional health remedies, wear natural hair and generally promote a pride in being Haitian.  She is also a member of Fondation Felicité, a movement to promote Haitian history and culture, named after the wife of the leader of the revolution, Jean Jacques Dessalines.

In 2002 she began a career in music, initially singing at private parties then in 2010 following the earthquake along with five friends and family formed the band SALAH, which mean ‘joy Holders’.  They play a mixture of jazz, roots, soul and bossa nova.    As a vodou practitioner, Souzen’s way of living is an inclusive one which sees humanity and natural life forces at the center of our existence and

SE: Do you consider yourself a feminist and if so how do you explain your feminism, where did it come from and what does this mean in a Haitian context.

SJ: I didn’t know the word feminism, or realize when I would get mad when people talked about women.  But I think it comes from my mother because from the age of 12 I lived with her and I realized how women’s lives can be difficult when they are on their own, even when they are not it is pretty difficult.   I realized that something had to be changed and that this could be me in the future.  My feminism is not like how they define it in Haiti because it is not a fight against men.  It’s a fight to get what is my right.  Sometimes these things could be small but you realize when you grow up that even a small act can be a big thing.

SE: You mentioned that sometimes in Haiti the word ‘feminism’ or being a feminist has negative connotations?

SJ: Yes, just like a lesbian.  Before when you say you are a feminist they make generalizations.  It’s not like this now but the general population still defines feminism as a fight against men. Even some women think  this.   In Haiti, rural women do not have the same relationship with men as urban women. It is sometimes more cordial but equally unfair to women. However, the women do not quite capture  the importance of feminism and the duty to fight for their rights. And most Haitian women associations don’t act to try to understand its real definition. So that’s why I think people misunderstand the movement [feminism] and don’t get involved.

I am a feminist because I think women have rights and we have to get those rights but I don’t want to defend myself as a feminist in the way it is defined in Haiti.

SE: You mentioned earlier that life for women in rural areas is different to those in urban areas.  What is the difference in the relationship to feminism between  women in the rural and urban areas.

SJ: Women in the rural areas are more free than urban women.  This is a paradox.  Women in rural areas are the head of the family, the head of the land, the plantations.  Officially they don’t have ownership of the land but they manage it everyday, they maintain it, they do everything and the relationship with men is so different.  Men know they don’t have the right to beat the women.  Of course everywhere there is violence, but it is there is less tension in the rural areas. But women in rural areas are still victims of laws for example if they don’t marry the man they have no land ownership rights.

SE: You have a degree in communications and a freelance journalist.  You’ve worked in for MINUSTAH [UN force in Haiti] which is controversial and also you worked for TNH.  What was your experience like working for MINUSTAH given that many Haitians see them as an occupying force?

SJ: First when you are in a country where there is little employment when a job comes you have to take it.  I worked with UN civilians and had no relationship with the army.   But there was still a daily tension with the civilian staff.  Professionally they were great but in the personal relationships they were pretty bad.  A lot of people resigned and others only stayed because the salary was reasonable. In summary, there is a lot of tension and we don’t appreciate them any more.

SE: As we come to the end of 2013, what is your opinion on the continued presence of MINUSTAH in Haiti after 7 years?

SJ: We made a mistake to accept them coming to Haiti but they are already here and though we must tell them to leave promptly, but not before we reinforce our structures ourselves. So we might ask them to leave partially under our supervision by reducing their army and civilians.

SE: So are you saying that Haiti does not have enough security eg police for the UN to leave?

SJ: No, it’s not about security. Haiti is a safe country, maybe the safest country in the world.  But the UN have a lot of people working in Haiti, they have their structures in every part of the country so we have to prepare ourselves. If we want to do it in the best way for Haiti then we cannot ask them to take everything and go when we don’t have the government or the state to replace them.  But still they have to leave and Haitians have to decide.

SE: You have been presenting and producing a radio program on health and self care for the Red Cross, can you talk about the program, your role and how important the program has been and what you will be doing next?

SJ: Just to be clear, the program had already started when I came on board.  I was hired to rearrange it as professionally as I could.  When I came I had to prepare the Haitian Red Cross volunteers to be able to run the program. In the beginning it was just after the earthquake and the objective was to inform people where they could get help, clean water, distribution and so on and then came cholera.  Now it’s three years since the earthquake.  We realized that we no longer knew who were our beneficiaries because three years on, the resilience of the population is OK . We need to move on to other things though they still need information about their health, about risk management.   So now we provide information on cancer, sexual infectious diseases, breast feeding, disaster management, violence prevention and so on.

Also the purpose of the show is to increase the capacity of the Haitian Red Cross and to inform the population of what they do. No one wants to talk about the earthquake anymore so the International Red Cross is leaving and I will be leave-taking the program and they will manage it themselves.

When the program started it was on Radio ONE and more rural people called.  After 4 months it moved to Radio Caraïbes and more urban people called. But really it depends on the topic so if the program is on sexually transmitted disease you will get more women callers because they know they are more vulnerable.  If it’s about violence prevention you get equal calls. The program runs for one hour and is played twice a week and is very popular. We had a survey and discovered that people have been following it for 3 years and even ask for more time.

My next radio project is something I have been planning for three years. It’s called  “Au Feminin Pluriel”.  I realized that the program with the Haitian Red Cross was restrictive but if someone else was discussing a subject they could be more expansive.  For example we could talk about family planning but we would not mention abortion.  So in this new program there will be some difference but using the same format so that social issues and other topics are discussed.

SE: This sounds really exciting which leads to my question around your project ‘Back to Natural”

SJ: Yes,   I realized that many Haitian women are using artificial things. It’s not about make up but false hair, false nails, skin lightening.  I made a show about the skin lightening which is dangerous for us because every woman wants to have a light skin.  There are some magazines which advertise the creams which are now being used by men and women.  So we will also talk about medicine and traditional herbs.  When I was young, the tradition was that parents keep their child’s umbilical cord. At 3 or 7 years old, the parents accompany the child to bury it while planting a plantlet [tree].  At that time, the parents explain to the child the responsibility henceforth to take care of this shrub and protect it until it becomes great enough. Now, this tradition is respected in very rural areas. I did have mine at 7 years old, in Carrefour. I had a coconut tree. I did it for my daughter and I will do for my son too.

SE:  You’ve also expressed strong views on education which connects with your involvement with the Foundation Felicité.

SJ:  Felicité, is one of the most fascinating elements I have had to date.  When I first met Bayyinah Bello [the founder of Foundation Felicité] I was 22, my hair was permed like every woman in Haiti but I had a lot of questions and she was wow you have a lot of questions so let’s do it step by step.   I asked about [Haitian] history, and then I realized our history was very much linked to vodou.   When I was 22, I began to see my grandmother who died when I was 2.  I explained it to my mother and she said how could you see her when she is dead.  So when I talked to Bayyinah she said you are not so crazy and everyone in Haiti has these kind of experiences.  She helped me with this and I was told to ask my grandmother what she wants me to do.  I did and she answered me so after three months of seeing her often, Bayyinah Bello suggested I go to see someone so I can understand it better.   I did and I met the Lwa who told me they have been waiting for me for so long and he explained to me about my family.  It was something pretty impressive. He told me a lot of things about my father who was in New York and he was surprised.

I understand a lot of things now and my father was not in agreement with my choice to become a practitioner of vodou but my mother respected my choice.

Foundation Felicité was started by Bayyinah Bello and the objective is to research our history and to publish these; take care of the elders because some aspects of our history are kept by our elders who have a lot of information and to document this.   The foundation also works to maintain our culture such as the event we had to celebrate the birthday of Dessalines. To remember the importance of our culture and history.

Felicité, is the wife of Jan-Jak Dessalines, a strong woman who was much older than him. He was her third husband.   She was our first nurse.  They talk about Florence Nightingale but she was before her. She took care of the soldiers even the French soldiers. She had a strong personality and told Dessalines ‘your enemies are not mine, let me choose mine’.  Sometimes, she negotiated with Dessalines to return the French soldiers to France. She taught him to read and write as her first husband who freed her, taught her.   She had no children but adopted all of Dessalines children.   Her house remains in Dessalines ville [the first capital of Haiti called the Imperial Town] near Arbonite in the north.

In school, we do not learn any of these, they don’t tell us where Dessalines comes from, sometimes they talk about him as if he is a bad person.  The problem is our history books were written by Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne and the point is: how can you ask someone to write your story and this person is the one you beat up!

SE:  Yes, I wondered about this for example why  Alexander Petion is included as one of the founding heroes of the revolution in the museum? And even he is the one pictured in the PetroCaribe promotion in Petion-Ville [at a recent conference in Haiti]

SJ: Pétion was not part of the revolution but I think [and some Haitians are sick of talking about this] but up till now some countries are trying to prevent Haitians knowing about their history.  Dessalines was someone extraordinary but they don’t want us to know this.  Even now they are always talking about Toussaint Louverture just because at the end they captured him and he died in their prison.  But Dessalines was killed by Pétion and they cannot say “we captured Dessalines”.

SE: So would you say there is some tension between those who want to engage with the history and those who don’t care?

SJ:  Yes. It’s about class system too. Most of our ancestors [not to say all], those who really fought for our independence were Vodou practitioners. Last week I said to my husband: “don’t you realize vodou is in fashion? Everyone is in vodou now. They have bags, shirts with ‘vèvè’ [vodou symbols]. Maybe it’s a good thing! [Laughs]

SE: Just to develop this a little, you’ve already explained  you are a vodou practitioner and although vodou was declared an official religion by President Aristide, it is still marginalized and demonized both in Haiti and beyond.   For instances blaming vodou for illnesses. Last week I watched a TV drama which was a struggle between Christianity and Vodou – of course we know who won.

SJ:  We are still marginalized but vodou practitioners are less impressed by this marginalization but we are still victims of their opinions. For example when the cholera started and they blamed it on vodou.  In many cities, they assassinated oungan and mambo [vodou priests and priestesses] because of this and it was many months before the health authorities explained where it [cholera] came from and what it was. Nobody has been punished for these murders. But they use vodou to go to the international and talk about our culture but they really don’t care.  For example everyone buys the vèvè on the bag but no one cares what its role is, why is it important.  The international are fascinated by this but that’s it.  It’s about sensationalism.

People should know that vodou is not a religion. It is a word that Haitians use to explain their relationship, the harmonization with god and our guides.

SE: Recently in Haiti there has been a change in the way Haitians relate to gays and lesbians when a christian group held a protest against homosexuality.  Two people were killed and many more beaten. What is the position of vodou on homosexuality and sexual minorities.

SJ: In vodou, and that’s why a lot of people don’t like us, we don’t judge anyone we don’t have the right to.  Usually they say when you assume yourself we don’t have the right to make a restriction for you and that’s why gay men and women they can be mambo or oungan. We don’t choose.  Vodou has the saying: Every child is a child”, even sexuality, black, white, they are children and we have to protect them.  All you have to do is have respect for the principals of life and of living with each other.   A sexworker, this is about survival, gay is about feelings, how can I then judge, it’s not that which makes a person who they are.

SE: To end I want to ask you about your life as a musician and the band SALAH

SJ: When we first started it was just for pleasure and I used to sing for pleasure. People told me I had a beautiful voice. After the earthquake we needed something to keep us strong so after three months we started again playing together. A friend in Florida brought us another guitar and microphones and we start to make noise.   People started to ask us to play and we realized we could make a band.   There is a Lwa and he told me that’s your destiny, you are going to be a singer. I was so shy but he taught me how to sing and then last year he asked me to start playing the guitar, so it’s good.  We are seven friends, father, husband, wife, brothers and friends in the band.

Additional reading suggestion for a full understanding of the relationship between Haitian history, slavery, the 1804 revolution and vodou, : Haiti, History and the Gods by Colin [Joan] Dyan

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Battle Between the Stone & the Tree: Sharia & Women in Nigeria

From Women’s E News, an excerpt from  “Your Fatwa Doesn’t Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism by Karima Bennoune.  In this excerpt Bennoune explains how externally imposed economic policies  have fueled fundamentalism and the use of Sharia law which is often applied selectively in gendered and class inequalities.

Ayesha Imam and the women she worked with for years in the Nigerian organization BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights possess those very traits. The group, founded in 1996, fights to protect women’s rights in the maze of the Nigerian legal system, with its overlapping religious, secular and customary laws and courts.

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Imam tells me they use tools from whichever system can “recuperate rights,” believing it is often possible to arrive at similar conclusions by working through Muslim discourses or international human rights. “My issue,” she underscores, “is not where you come from, but where you arrive at.”

With her colleagues, she tried to “deconstruct what is Sharia (Muslim laws). How does it get to be Sharia? Is it divine or is it merely religious?” In the ’80s and early ’90s, some of the Sharia courts in Nigeria had come up with “what we may call progressive” interpretations, “as opposed to following somebody’s idea of how it should have worked in 13th-century Arabia.” Imam’s efforts to support women living under these Muslim laws brought her, inevitably, to work on fundamentalism.

“Fundamentalism hit us in Nigeria so it was absolutely necessary, because otherwise fundamentalism was going to close us all down, close all the dreams down, close all the hope down,” she says.

The backdrop for this, a resurgence of communalism, was sparked in part by the harsh impact of structural adjustment and ensuing battles for resources. Structural adjustment–economic reforms imposed on Nigeria by international financial institutions–also meant there were many unemployed, uneducated young men looking for something to do. For them, “this was an opportunity to have power and assert themselves,” as Imam sees it. “They told women in taxis and buses that they had to sit in the back seats.” There was “general intimidation.”

Mixed Response

This in turn led to greater emphasis on Sharia in Muslim majority segments of the population in the late ’90s in the north of Nigeria, and then to enactment of new legislation in the early 2000s. “The reaction among the Muslim community was really mixed. Human rights workers and those who identify strongly as democrats argued that we need secular law. The laws being brought in under the guise of Muslim laws are conservative, and detract from human rights.” Even some religious conservatives opposed Sharianization, Imam recalls, on the grounds that you could not have Sharia before you have economic development so that people can actually live good lives.

According to their worldview, “You can’t cut off people’s hands for theft if they have no other means of gaining a livelihood.”

Any such opponents, however, became targets of “vigilante responses.” Death threats, beatings, threats of being burned. In one state where the governor delayed enacting a Sharia Act and set up a committee to study the matter, there were even threats to his family. Imam recalls attending a meeting in Abuja with the governor who started Sharianization. Young men throughout the hall were telling women where they could and could not sit. “Every time a woman got up to speak, they were yelling and drowning her out. It didn’t matter if you were wearing a hijab or not.” This was new, Imam underlines. When she was a younger feminist, “You didn’t get shouted down. You were not in fear of being physically attacked, or being burned or harassed. You’d go to public meetings and people would get up and argue with you and they might laugh.”

As fundamentalism began to transform Nigerian lives, Imam and BAOBAB became involved in the cases of women who were facing sentences of stoning. One of the first, that of Fatima Usman, ensued when the woman’s father took the man who fathered her baby to court to get child support. “He had no idea he was going to set up his own daughter for the possibility of being stoned to death.” (Today Usman remains technically out on bail, as the case has never been finally resolved. Nor, thankfully, has the sentence been carried out.) Most such cases began with vigilante groups forcing the police to prosecute and ended in “lots of people convicted of Zina [unlawful sexual relations] and whipped because they were not married.” If people do not appeal, they are taken out and whipped right away, Imam laments. “It was really important to establish the principle that you can appeal. It’s your right.

“It’s not anti-God to appeal.”

Continue reading “Fighting Back” on Women’s E News

 

Court Rules in favour of Sexual Minorities Uganda in case against Scott Lively

From Center for Constitutional Rights  Today, in a first-of-its kind case brought by a Ugandan LGBTI advocacy organization against a prominent U.S. anti-gay extremist, a federal judge ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people are protected under international law. The ruling means that the case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a Uganda-based coalition of LGBTI rights and advocacy groups, can move forward over defendant Scott Lively’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

“Widespread, systematic persecution of LGBTI people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms,” said Judge Michael Ponsor. “The history and current existence of discrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability.”
The lawsuit alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI Ugandans of their fundamental human rights based solely on their identity, which is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity. This effort bore fruit most notably in the introduction of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill (aka the Kill the Gays bill), which Lively helped engineer.
Lively has also been active in countries like Russia where a new law criminalizing gay rights advocacy was recently passed. In 2007, Lively toured 50 cities in Russia recommending some of the measures that are now law.
“Today’s ruling is a significant victory for human rights everywhere but most especially for LGBTI Ugandans who are seeking accountability from those orchestrating our persecution,” said Frank Mugisha, the director of SMUG.
Said CCR Attorney Pam Spees, “We are gratified that the court recognized the persecution and the gravity of the danger faced by our clients as a result of Scott Lively’s actions. Lively’s single-minded campaign has worked to criminalize their very existence, strip away their fundamental rights and threaten their physical safety.”

U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue for violations of international law in U.S. federal courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The case, Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, was originally filed in federal court in Springfield, MA, in March 2012. Today’s ruling is here. For more information, visit CCR’s case page

Haiti: Occassional Musings 19 – Bondye from the mountain top

Last Sunday I took a trip up to the highest point overlooking the city of Port-au-Prince and took a few photos – it wasn’t particularly inspiring

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until I saw this little girl in luminous green – I missed the full body shot

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whilst being harassed by street vendors all selling the same old same old except for these fellows on sewing machines.

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This is Haiti so it was no suprise to come across a bus of white saviours – they are everywhere, sent to Heal Haiti which assumes she is sick

 

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An overheard abusive comment directed at a young white woman goes something like this – ‘please marry me so I can have babies that look like you and I will never be hungry again’ – the damage though not altogether irreparable is severe enough to elicit rage in side of me and the heroes of the past become meaningless caricatures amongst the endless parade of white and black faith healers calling for the heads of queer folk, upholding biblical patriarchy and responding to poverty as some biblical pestilence due to sin and human failings.

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I learned that there is an organisation in the US called Feed my Starving Children supported by corporate sponsors including the Minnesota Vikings football team. They raise tens of millions to feed the poor in Haiti and 74 other countries -Their website has a photo of two young white well fed children full of cheer as they bag up cups of dried soya, this juxtaposed with photos of a Haitian toddler sitting on a dirt floor eating the reconstituted packed food and a smiling Guatemalan boy holding a pack of Manna [as in manna from heaven] Rice. FMSC hopes to put an end to starving children by the miracle of compassion

With God’s help Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) will strive to eliminate starvation in children throughout the world by helping to instill compassion in people to hear and respond to the cries of those in need.

Manna from Corporate Heaven and providing a great deal of people with the feel good factor that they helped feed God’s starving Haitian and Guatemalan children.

Feeding hungry children is laudable but if you have been doing this for the past 25 years and people in the same towns and villages remain hungry then clearly this is no solution to liberating people from the prison of hunger unless of course you believe the poor exist in order for you to feed them thereby ensuring your ascendency to heavenly glory! I lament over the fact that FMSC raises tens of millions every year to feed hungry kids in dependent perpetuity but a project like Growing Haiti to provide commercially viable and sustainable urban farming cannot even raise a few thousand – a project that would initially provide jobs for 150 women so they could feed their families fresh nutritious food rather than dried up rice and soya nuggets melted in boiling water. Maybe Oprah could help out now she missed out on the $38,000 bag in the ‘you cant put a price on racism’ drama!

I left the hilltop and stopped off at St Joseph’s Mission in Delmas rebuilt after the earthquake – my friend sits and contemplates the day and plans for tomorrow – I walk around taking more photos only to later discover my battery died which could be a metaphor for something .

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Haiti: KOURAJ: “Be True to Yourself”

The evangelical churches responsible for driving homophobia in Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and the USA have begun a campaign of violence and hate in Haiti. On Friday, an all faith coalition of homophobic haters called [The Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations ] held an anti-gay protest in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Homosexuality is not criminalized in Haiti and although ostracized socially within Christian faith communities , LGBTI people are very much a part of the Voudou practicing community, who themselves are facing increased hostility from these same moral crusaders many who receive huge financial support from churches in the USA.

LGBT activists from Kouraj and Facsdis explained that whilst homophobia is rampant, it is not murderous and many activists are out to their families. Kouraj is working with lawyers from the Defenders if the Oppressed to draft anti-homophobia and anti-discrimination law and also to,push for an open dialogue on sexuality and fixed notions of gender.

With the rise of the religious haters what progress has been made is likely to be compromised and the possibility of murderous acts increased as two men were beaten to death during Fridays protest.

In response to ‘Anti-Gay” protests

Haiti – Feminist Series 3, A Theology of Liberation: Interview with Madam Euvonie Auguste of Famm Voudou pou Ayiti

This interview is a reblog from my first visit to Haiti in 2007.  

One of the first women I spoke to was Voudou Priestess, Madame Evonne Auguste – an amazing beautiful woman with a presence yet warm and purposeful. Madame Auguste is a member of Famm Voudou pou Ayiti (Voudou Women for Ayiti). In the interview she explains that Voudou is both a religion and a philosophy and speaks about the relationship between voudou and liberation theology. She also discusses the some of the reasons behind the demonetisation of the religion and why Famm Voudou pou Ayiti want to establish their own school.

Madam Euvonie Auguste


Listen to the podcast

On Being Transgender

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Mia Nikasimo. As a volunteer for Changing Attitudes at the Lambeth Conference I found myself in an opportune position to reflect from a translesbian (i.e. a transsexual woman who identifies as a lesbian not to be confused with above or beyond “lesbians,” or a transgender man) standpoint on the Anglican Communion and attempts to exclude the LGBTI.

I have purposely mentioned my trans status here because “transgender” as an umbrella term (for transsexual female, male, sister, brother, mothers, fathers any of the following might choose to cross dress, are intersexed, queer, kings, drag queens and more) can easily loose ones identity in the mix and because I can only share this reflection as a translesbian in the full awareness that some, like my LGBTI African brothers, sisters cannot. As the founder of an online support group call Transafro I aim to give voice to our various narratives Anglicans or otherwise, to promote, empower and raise consciousness in Africa, the Diaspora and allies.

Transgender, contrary to what is often believed to be the case, is not about sexual orientation. Rather it is about gender identity which, for instance, in the case of transsexuals (i.e. female or male), sexual orientation is something that gradually happens as birth sexuality goes through a sort of transformation and so on and so forth. Even some transsexual people do not fully understand this so I am not surprised that most members of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community do not understand the “T” or transgender enough to change their attitudes towards us never mind the wider Anglican Communion of Bishops which is why education, dialogue and reflection is important.

The consensus will always be that: WE DO EXIST, WE ARE TRANSGENDER AND WE ARE PROUD!!!

Primarily, in conjunction with some members of Changing Attitudes, this stance is saying that I am here, a transsexual woman and a lesbian of African origin (Nigerian, in my case) but also as a member of the wider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community here to reaffirm our identity in the face of attempts to erase our presence from the Anglican Communion. However, the organisation’s mission statement which states that we are: ‘working for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender affirmation in the Anglican Communion’ is well intentioned we need to be proactive in our efforts.

On reflection, I have found that one significant question in particular seemed to manage to escape our attention. Although we have raised the stakes immensely in changing the Bishops attitudes, what are we as attitude changers doing to bring the same rigour to bear on ourselves? Before we can change attitudes among the Bishops we have a lot of education, dialogue and reflection work to in our community (i.e. the LGBTI) especially with regard to bisexual (although I cannot speak for them I am aware that they have little or no representation) and transgender people. Simple definitions such as what is a transsexual woman/lesbian? still manage to confuse some lesbian and gay men who then amusingly or otherwise call a transwoman or a translesbian a gay man robbing her of her trans identity and or her sexual orientation simultaneously just for a laugh. Likewise, referring to a transgender/transsexual man as a woman denies him his status as a man. Attitudes within the Anglican Communion cannot be changed in an atmosphere of homophobia or transphobia because of deep rooted fear which is why there is a call for more education, dialogue and reflection.

Although my mother is an Anglican which meant I could easily have chosen Christianity I opted for Buddhism. This is not to say that Buddhists are without similar conditioning as the Anglicans but because it was a religion I chose with a full understanding of what I was doing. Rather than the impositions and guilt ridden disposition of the Anglican Communion towards gender identity (i.e. as a transsexual woman) and sexuality (i.e. as a lesbian) I left Christianity and became a Buddhist and found peace of mind albeit formative. With committed and concentrated practice of meditation I was more able to get on with my life.

This suited me. I read broadly about Buddhism finding solace in the stories of practitioners like Tenzin Palmo and Milarepa to mention just two. With meditation practise I also found a sort of peace of mind that meant I could let go of hatred, guilt and fear and approach the world from a position of compassion, love and understanding. I even wanted to become a Buddhist nun and spend the rest of my life in spiritual contemplation in a cave out in the wild somewhere but I quickly realised that that would be indulging my desire to escape it all. Somehow, the city became my cave practice based on Plato’s Cave allegory.

I began to see anew and in seeing saw the Anglican Communion and the human condition as both locked horns and wondered where all the compassion, love and understanding had gone. I followed the Anglican Communion as it observed its rituals I did mine with Buddhist ones evoking the essence of compassion, Tara and or the Boddhisattva of fearlessness, Amoghasiddhi and shared the experience at every opportunity in social engagement.

However, on a final note, I feel the service of the Bishops is not about celebrity or notoriety rather it is about the cultivation of the seeds of compassion, love and understanding in all the Anglican Communion and not just some. This must include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people too or the shepherd fails in his duty to all his flock of sheep. But this mantle is not for them to bear alone. We have our part to play in the affirmation of the LGBT without excluding the “T” as can happen and continues too.

We Must FLATLINE their Power-Hungry Robbery!

Hello, all. I have many critical things to say about the unthinkable power that pastors in Pentecostal churches have given themselves. I also have lots to say about how MANY people give them that power. The masses support these criminals who come bearing the Bible and leave with a bag full of riches. In an attempt to start a conversation, I have shared below an excerpt from my short story called, “Fire.”  The inserted picture is of course from the infamous video of Pastor Bishop Odeyepo slapping a woman for speaking bad English. The woman said something like “I am wish for Jesus” and he thought it was “I am a WITCH for Jesus.”He went on to instruct her to “go to hell” and to tell her she was “cut down” in the name of Jesus.  Even if she were a witch – a slap? a merciless condemation? to Hell? Thank you, and please enjoy an excerpt of my story about love that can exist outside the church and its funny ideas about sin and some professions being lowly before the eyes of God. Let us unpack the phenomena together.
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“Kabelo, I decided today was my last Sunday at church,” she says casually patting her head to stop her hair from itching.
“You can keep going for a few more months, ratu. I am sure dey don’t know,” Kabelo replies.
“Ijo! I don’t want to have to be cut off next month in front of the whole church for fornication like it happened to Dudu, remember? Besides I am going back to Gaborone next week for my last year at the university,”she says.
“I am too happy but I am not knowing what we can do,” he says too shyly, knitting his forehead.
With her index finger tracing his lips, she confidently tells him that, “Once I have my BA, all will be fine. We are twenty-five, we are adults. We will make it work, church or no church.”
“Yes, ratu,” he says slowly, not because he disagrees but rather out of a feeling of helplessness. He wishes he could provide for her – that he was more than a mere garden-boy but a professional, maybe even a doctor or one of those stiff secondary-school teachers.
The moon is white and full and the village has gone to sleep. She rubs his beard with her fingers and teases him about his beard being as coarse as a pot-scourer. She plays with the back of his head, the bump just above the nape of his neck.

Mbeki on Uganda AHB & Africa’s selfish political classes

Former South African President,Thabo Mbeki has criticised the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill [AHB] in Kampala. Mbeki was speaking in response to a question by academic activist, Sylvia Tamale on what he would say to “Mr Bahati about the plight of a lesbian woman seeking recognition of her divergent sexual orientation”. Thank goodness there are still pockets of sanity amongst African leaders even if they are ex-leaders.

“I would say to the MP; sexual preferences are a private matter,” said Mr Mbeki. “I don’t think it is a matter of the state to intervene.” Mr Mbeki said he was certain that Mr Bahati would disagree with his stand and argue that African culture does not permit same sex relations, a reason at the heart of the continent’s wide spread antipathy towards homosexuals.

Mr Mbeki said apartheid South Africa prohibited sexual relations “across the colour line” aided by The Immorality Act which handed the police legal ground to raid “people’s bedrooms” before dragging them to court for prosecution.

“I mean what would you want? It doesn’t make sense at all. That is what I would say to the MP. What two consenting adults do is really not the matter of law,” he said. Mr Mbeki also responded to a series of questions about the failure of Africa’s present day intellectuals to cultivate ideas for progressive movement of change on the continent and the weakness of the African Union in defending and promoting the interests of Africans.” He said a weak and selfish political class, responsible for collaborating with Western imperialists to lead external intervention for selfish end on the continent, had played a leading role in clamping down progressive intellectuals since viewed as opposition to their hold on power.

The real danger lies in the merging of religion with politics which seems to be a growing trend. Nation building as a religious project, even one which speaks out against a kleptocratic pseudo military government, is a haunting scenario!

“God is a game” a load of money, miracles and hate!

Nigeria is now trending as ” a very religious country” and Nigerians as “a very religious people”. Well if one meausres religious by the numbers who attend churches and mosques then it must be true! The business of church and religion is probably the most competitive business in the country so competition for new bodies to save and pockets to burn can get heated. One of the fastest growing churches are those led by “prosperity” and “charismatic” preachers – everyone wants to be rich right and lets face it with miricles and all, the medical profession have outlived their usefulness.

So who are prosperity preachers? Millionaire and multi millionaire preachers who preach not humility and humanity but how to get rich, how to get one over your neighbour or basically how to fuck the peson next door, miracles, possessions, demons and yes bring life to the dead!
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Evelyn Apoko, LRA survivor bears witness

Evelyn Apoko survived the Lords Resistance Army [LRA]. Here she responds to those who are stupidly misinformed and who have criticised President Obama’s decision to deploy 100 US troops to try to end the LRA’s war and capture Joseph Kony.    Whatever we may think about foreign military interventions and in this case what could turn out to be yet  another US execution on foreign soil, Evelyn’s testimony and  pleas for help in ending the 23 year old war in which thousands upon thousands of children have been abducted and tortured, villages ransacked and women raped and people killed, cannot and should not be ignored. The LRA’s war takes place in Uganda and crosses borders into Southern Sudan, the Central African Republic [where Kony is suspected as hiding] and the DRC. The most recent deployment of troops by Obama is not the first US involvement in the war. In 2008 the US have provided intelligence and logistical support in the DRC and though this officially ended in 2009 it is believed the support continued unofficially. Though from time to time there are short reports on the LRA the war takes place outside of the media limelight and it is hard to believe that any serious effort has ever been made on the part of Uganda, the DRC, the AU or the UN to protect civilians and put an end to the war. Increased militarisation may have some short term impact however as this statement by “Defence Professionals” shows it is doubtful that this latest US intervention will be any more successful than the last.

The task will not be easy. One of the consequences of Operation Lightning Thunder was that the LRA scattered into smaller groups, making them much more difficult to track down. Kony himself is believed to be operating in the Central African Republic. The groups have discarded any communication equipment that would allow them to be traced and instead rely on runners to relay messages. In addition, the LRA is a hardened guerilla force used to operating in difficult terrain. It has survived against the odds for a quarter of a century. U.S. policymakers and military planners emphasize that there is no quick fix to ending the scourge of the LRA and that even the death or capture of Kony and his senior commanders may not be sufficient to finish off the group unless broader efforts are made to address the grievances that caused it to form in the first place.

New strategies have to be found starting above all else with increased efforts to protect civilians and to engage more forcefully with local religious leaders, civil society organisations and traditional leaders including the voices of survivors like Evelyn Apoko.

Evelyn Apoko is 22 years old, but she was only a child when the Lord’s Resistance Army came into her home late one night and dragged her out into the jungle. The LRA, a bizarre and violent cult that emerged out of Uganda’s 1986 civil war, enslaved Evelyn as they had the 66,000 children that came before and after her.

Most children who are abducted by the LRA are forced to either fight, aid in fighting, or serve as concubines. Evelyn does not say what happened during her years of enslavement with the LRA, but, one day, a bomb went off near her during one of the battles that are a regular part of the group’s life. She attempted to protect an infant that was with the group, in the process exposing her face to the blast, which disfigured her. Denied medical care and fearing that she would be killed for her unattractive appearance, Evelyn escaped, miraculously making it through the jungle on foot and alone.

Today she is a fellow with a Liberia-based non-profit called the Strongheart Fellowship Program, which rehabilitates young people from what it calls “extremely challenging circumstances.” Last year, she was honored on the floor of the Canadian parliament for her work.

Dear Mr. Limbaugh: Evelyn’s Appeal from Strongheart on Vimeo.

Death on a cross

I have no religious beliefs but I am very familiar with the rituals of Catholicism and fascinated with the visual expression of these rituals and biblical references.

Even though crucifixions were common place in Roman occupied Palestine, this scene of Jesus supporters alongside his killers might have been different to the usual scenes accompanying crucifixions. There is so much activity, women and men weeping, the crucifiers busy trying to tie down the ropes of the cross, Roman soldiers silently overseeing the execution, both inside the scene yet outside sitting above the crowds. One of the two thieves is shown lying down on the cross prior to being nailed and raised to stand next to Jesus.

How different is this public execution, which is seen as barbaric, to executions today which take place in secret rooms behind glass panels where families seeking vengeance sit and watch alongside those who have given themselves the right and power to kill in the name of justice? Is something more barbaric if it is done behind closed doors?

Via the Independent