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Steps toward LGBT equality via D.C., Rome, the Gambia

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St. Paul’s Foundation helped raise money for activist Eric Lembembe’s funeral in early August and has been busy pushing for justice and equality for LGBT people ever since.

In Rome, in Washington, D.C., and in Banjul, the Gambia, in West Africa, a few tentative, positive steps are under way toward justice and equality for LGBT people in some of the 76-plus countries where homosexuality is illegal.

The San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation has been involved in these:

HELP FROM THE WORLD BANK

The World Bank wants to know what it can do to alleviate poverty among millions of LGBT people around the world.

To help answer that question, the bank invited the foundation to select an LGBT representative to work on improving the bank’s responses to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That representative is Kemraj (Khem) Persaud, program coordinator of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana, who is currently attending the bank’s annual meeting, Oct. 7-11.

For more information, read the article, “Guyana man will advise World Bank on LGBT poverty.”

AFRICAN-AMERICAN PREACHERS VS. HOMOPHOBIA

Poster for "Love Heals Homophobia."
Poster for “Love Heals Homophobia.”

Activists in countries where homosexual activity is illegal asked the foundation for a film featuring African-American clergy who have rejected faith-based repression of homosexuals.  The result is the film “Love Heals Homophobia,” which will premiere in Washington, D.C., on  Friday, Oct. 11. In the film:

Four remarkable African-American clergy trace their spiritual awakenings around LGBT issues in the hope other faith communities will create more open and welcoming spaces for the LGBT community.

Ed Breeding and Lindy Miles, the film’s producers, will join the four featured clergy, Rev. Albert Ogle, Angeline Jackson from Jamaica and supporters of the St. Paul’s Foundation for this remarkable and controversial film, designed to produce congregational discussion. Admission is free.

For more information, read “Inaugural showing of ‘Love Heals Homophobia.’ “

Copies of the film can be ordered through escharf@kelseymgmt.com

AFRICANS TALK TO AFRICANS

Representatives from Cameroonian organizations working on LGBT issues will attend this month’s meeting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Commission, urging an end to that country’s arrests and imprisonment of LGBT people.

Funds to pay for their travel were raised by the St. Paul’s Foundation and Advocates for Human Rights, which will allow them to speak about human rights conditions in Cameroon and the need for change. They will also use this opportunity to build support among other African human rights organizations and to press their case with the African Commission during its meeting in Banjul, the Gambia. To contribute, click HERE.

For more information, read “Africans seek protection for LGBT Africans, and you can help.”

NEW SPIRIT IN ROME

Francis I (Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in 2008) (Photo by Aibdescalzo via Wikimedia Commons)
Francis I (Photo by Aibdescalzo via Wikimedia Commons)

Christian leaders’ attitudes toward LGBT people were a frequent topic of discussion at the “Courage to Hope: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue” conference of the Sant’Egidio Community in Rome from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of the foundation, was in attendance along with three other representatives of the foundation. He filed these commentaries about the event:

RGOD2: Banking on the Pope and the World Bank (Sept. 20) “What is becoming a consistent message from this new Pope is that the church needs to redefine its focus and serve people rather than police or judge them.”

RGOD2: When in Rome … (Sept. 27) “LGBT people are clearly part of the marginalized and rejected that Francis is trying to reach. How to do that is now uniquely before us.”

RGOD2: The courage to hope (Oct. 3) “The latest impact of this vision was a conference that attracted 3,000 people over this past weekend. The opening Mass of the Conference, held at the Basilica of St Paul (where the remains of our patron, St. Paul, are venerated), had 25,000 people and was nationally televised. Every major religion was represented and received with all the warmth and graciousness of Roman hospitality. Four of us from the St. Paul’s Foundation, two Africans and two Americans, were invited to share in the public discussions and presentations, as well as the grand opening assembly.”

Abdelfattah Mourou (Photo courtesy of BusinessNews.com.tn)
Abdelfattah Mourou (Photo courtesy of BusinessNews.com.tn)

RGOD2: The imperative need of family (Oct. 4) “Although the tone of the exchanges was genuinely open and searching for some common ground, the vice president of the “Ennadha Movement” in Tunisia, Abdelfattah Mourou, went off on a tirade against homosexuals as a threat to family and society and therefore must be eradicated.

“Mourou was the only panelist who waved his finger while yelling at us all and I believe he scared the hell out of all of us by his paradoxical advocacy for the loving family in a particular unloving communication style. It was difficult to hear the soft tones of the English translator while the Iman pontificated for 15 minutes. We know there are religious leaders like him not only in Tunisia where LGBT people are routinely murdered without police investigations or recourse, but right here in Europe.”

RGOD2: Terror in the name of religion (Oct. 5) “The Pope addressed the San Egidio leadership and made it clear there was no room in religion for the justification of violence in whatever way it was expressed. …

Maxensia Nakibuuka
Maxensia Nakibuuka

“Maxensia Nakibuuka is a Catholic lay leader in Uganda who was representing St. Paul’s Foundation at the conference and she spoke powerfully from the floor about her experience as a woman living with HIV in Uganda and how church and state were supporting laws to criminalize and stigmatize her. She described this as “spiritual terrorism.” The soul is eroded and destroyed by the word and attitudes of another.

“She then went on to speak of her experience in working with the LGBT community in Uganda who were equally subjected to this spiritual terrorism from the churches. The dehumanizing and misinformation resulted in the same effects of physical terrorism-people are injured and some have been killed through mob violence or die of neglect when they cannot access health services like HIV testing and prevention. She noted the immorality of supporting legislation criminalizing HIV people or LGBT people as they have been trying to do in Uganda. “This chases people away that the church needs to reach out to so they can receive counseling, testing and services. We need to end this spiritual terrorism.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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