|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
The Moderator of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) condemned the activities of LGBTI persons in Ghana's media on Monday.
Rev. Emmanuel Martey called on the government and church to "reduce the high rate of indiscipline in the country." Appiah Danquah Kufuor, a columnist for GhanaWeb, responded to the Moderator with an column titled, "Homosexuals Are Also God's Children."
My attention has been drawn to a speech made by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCG), on 21st June 2011. This was his address to the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Reverend Professor Emmanuel Martey condemns homosexual activities as “unbiblical, un-African, abnormal and filthy”. This condemnation and possible incitement to hate brought me out of my semi- retirement from writing articles and a break from my focus on my forthcoming book.
I was in a total state of shock and disbelief. Just a day prior to his speech I had the opportunity to address some high school pupils in the Peak District of rural Derbyshire in England on the economic and social benefits of inward migration. The arguments used by the opponents of inward migration to Britain borders on “racism and prejudice”. I was shocked that such a similar negative attitude could be shown by one of my countrymen.
The speech by Reverend Martey also reminded me about the writings of the British imperialist Rudyard Kipling. In his poem “The White Man’s Burden”, Mr Kipling used words such as ‘half-devil and half child’ to refer to the conquered black people on the Philippine Islands. We would all agree that Mr Kipling was wrong in his description of black people. Equally Reverend Mantey and others are equally wrong to use emotional and unchristian words to describe homosexuals.
What is my Beef?
Why am I bothered? Readers may ask - are you homosexual? What is your beef? The simple answer is firstly my sexual orientation is an irrelevance. Second, as a Ghanaian, I have every right to express my views on topics concerning national identity and cohesiveness.
Pastor Niemoeller, a victim of the Nazi Holocaust got it right when he stated: “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew; then they came for the communist and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist; then they came for the trade unionist and I did not speak out- because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Many readers will be fully aware that until the mid-1960s legal barriers prevented blacks and other racial minorities in the United States from entering many jobs and educational institutions. President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was the first President to use the term affirmative action. It was used by President John F. Kennedy in a 1961 executive order designed to encourage contractors on projects financed with federal funds to racially integrate their workforces. Kennedy’s executive order declared that federal contractors should ' take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to race, creed, colour or national origin. ' JFK was right to promote affirmative action. Discrimination on any grounds is evil, unchristian and morally wrong...
Role of Religion in Gay-Bashing
Maybe, our African brothers and sisters need reminding of a very basic simple truth: the majority of Europeans at the time of the slave trade perceived and genuinely believed that our ancestors were “primitive and sub- human people” and were only fit to be enslaved. Some prominent preachers at the time quoted the scriptures to justify their actions. Ironically, the wealth of many churches was accumulated on the sweat of black slave labour.
I am neither a theologian nor a fundamentalist Christian evangelical soul. I am just a mere mortal, an ordinary Christian who passionately believes in the compassionate nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. His most simple and all encompassing teaching was that we should love one another. He did not qualify that in any way by listing exceptions such as race, creed, colour or sexuality. Whereas, religion cannot be blamed for all the ills of society, there is empirical and strong anecdotal evidence to show that religion can have a strong effect on people developing negative attitudes towards gay people.
There are particular features in Christian scripture, theology, institutions and practices that may foster anti-homosexual beliefs and actions, including gay bashing. The Presbyterian Church in Ghana cannot afford to gamble with the dangerous notion of “moral equivalence” by wishing evil away. It is morally wrong to claim; in effect every church is on the bandwagon so we might as well get on it. No, they must stand up and be counted for what is right.
As a Ghanaian, I was brought up with the same cultural values as Reverend Mantey. The majority of Ghanaians have strong religious beliefs buttressed by a cultural identity that disapproves of homosexuality. For example, my late grandmother never believed that it existed - Bless Her.
I have no issue with the teaching of the Presbyterian Church being disapproving of the sexual orientation of homosexuals on religious, cultural and moral grounds. A good Christian precept is to “hate the sin but love the sinner” [It should be noted that the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordains LGBTI persons to the ministry and this is not a universal belief among Presbyterians]. The problem arises when “democratic disagreements” turns into stigmatisation and downright prejudicial acts. My worry is, in a democratic nation citizens must be free to go about their daily business and make live the life of their choice without religious bigots entering the democratic space. Nigeria is in danger of being torn apart by religious zealots who are hell bent on implementing sharia law. Do we want Ghana to follow suit?
Our Responsibility and Duty
When Martin Luther King made his powerful “I have a dream...” speech, his aims were those of the original civil rights movement advocates. He was arguing for laws which were ‘colour-blind '. He believed that no one should be judged by the colour of their skin and that opportunities should be open to all. Equally, no one should be judged by their sexual preference.
As individuals, we must have a substantial change in attitudes. The church in particular must preach tolerance, forgiveness and compassion. The church must take a lead in stopping the stigmatisation of homosexuality and start to use “Christian language and terminology” in their description of homosexuals. In the end, “no one is without sin”, if indeed it is a sin, and who is to judge? - Let alone cast the first stone?
Second, young people must be taught to effectively tackle issues of homophobia and address prejudicial attitudes and discrimination – in all its forms. Prejudice is never right, whatever form it takes.
Third, the Government must enact a law that makes incitement to hatred and discrimination on all grounds illegal. It must pass progressive legislation that protects the rights of lesbians and gay people and that decriminalises homosexuality.
Fourth, the Press must act as the fourth estate. It must not publish speeches and statements that are clearly prejudicial, discriminatory, and offensive and which may lead to hate crimes.
Fifth, we must stop hiding behind this phantom umbrella of “African-identity” to alarm or terrorise the homosexual community in Africa. There is nothing unique or African about gay- bashing. It is unseemly and ugly in every society where it takes place.
I am African and fully support the democratic rights of homosexuals. I am prepared to seek legal recourse for the rights of homosexuals to be acknowledged in Ghana. African leaders including religious leaders have no monopoly over moral issues- far from it. We all have to make moral and ethical choices and make sure we do the right thing – always.
In concluding, l wish African religious leaders would take up arms against the corrupt and bankrupt political leaders that siphon off millions of hard earned foreign currencies for their own luxury. I wish church leaders will start preaching against the huge disparity between the poor and rich; the extreme poverty that exists in most African countries; the greedy; exploitative; selfish leaders that abound on the continent.
I wish African preachers would spend their time and energies campaigning day and night to eliminate child labour; promote the rights of women and the disabled; wage a moral war against members of their fraternity for stealing from the poor and getting rich on the back of the wretched and dispossessed.
I wish our African preachers, would start preaching the good news of the gospel which liberates the poor and empowers the millions of people living in the shanty towns.
Finally, I wish African preachers would join hands with all progressive elements in society to work hard to create a society that is free of prejudice, hate and discrimination.