Relationship problems: Topic of Nigerian LGBTIQ podcast

Promo for the No Strings podcast titled "Why you may not find him." (To listen to the podcast, click on the image.)

Promo for the No Strings podcast titled “Why you may not find him.” (To listen to the podcast, click on the image.)

In this very age where image and looks matters a whole lot, it is increasingly becoming very difficult for one to kick-start and sustain a meaningful and healthy relationship,” says Mike Daemon, the host of the No Strings podcasts, which provide a voice for the LGBTIQ community in  Nigeria.

In the latest podcast, titled “Why you may not find him,” Daemon discusses the problems of establishing healthy relationships, especially among LGBTIQ people of Nigeria, where such relationships are outlawed.

“Especially in Nigeria,” he says, “many within the LGBTIQ community think that it is completely useless to have something tagged as a relationship; this is because many believe that gay relationships do not amount to anything meaningful, as marriage is usually not in the picture, and believe homosexuality is just a fun lifestyle. Whereas some still crave healthy relationships and companionships, but sometimes go about it the wrong way and with the wrong reasons. This episode shapes and tends to explore these reasons and in fact puts things into perspective.”

For this and future podcasts, visit the No Strings podcast website.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Commentary | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

4 news briefs: Anti-gay laws undercutting AIDS efforts

In each of these four news items, the point is the same — countries’ anti-gay laws create problems for AIDS fighters. Each item was excerpted with slight modifications from UNAIDS’s Equal Eyes recap of the world’s LGBTI-related news:

Secrétaire Général de l'ONU, Ban Ki-moon

LGBTI rights advocate Ban_Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations

Speaking to Caribbean leaders in Barbados at a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted  challenges hindering the fight against HIV/Aids in the region, noting that the epidemic is “only made worse by laws and stigma” and that “we cannot tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or on the basis of gender identity.”

A new article published in the Lancet found that gay and bisexual men in Nigeria fear the benefits of accessing health care do not outweigh the risks of arrest and torture imposed by the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

While at the International Financing for Development conference in Ethiopia, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé observed that ending the HIV epidemic is not only about giving pills, and that “bad laws” drive vulnerable people underground: “Gay people are not reached anymore in many places because of homophobic laws.”

In Jamaica, with its anti-sodomy law, a new report found that in 2012 bisexuals accounted for 40 percent of new HIV infections.

Minister of Health Dr. Fenton Ferguson said the HIV prevalence rate in Jamaica was:

  • 1.8% among the general population.
  • 4.2% among female sex workers.
  • 24.3% among young men under 25 years who have sex with men
  • 41% among sex workers who have sex with men.
  • 45% among trans women.
  • As much as 56% among trans people in sex work.

Those prevalence rates are “way too high,” he said, so intense anti-HIV efforts must be concentrated on these vulnerable groups.

But doing so is difficult, he said, because of the ever-present challenge of  effectively dealing with the issue of stigma and discrimination.

For more information, read the full edition of Equal Eyes.

Posted in Africa, Africa (Sub Saharan), Americas, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, HIV / AIDS, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

U.N. members to Grenada: Repeal anti-gay law

Location of Grenada in the Caribbean. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

Location of Grenada in the Caribbean. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

Discrimination against LGBTI people in Grenada came under fire from abroad as part of the past year’s United Nations review of countries’ human rights records.

The past year’s reviews focused on dozens of countries as part of the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which eventually scrutinizes each country’s human rights record in turn. This article is one of several about the recent UPR process for seven countries with anti-LGBTI laws .

The excerpts below focus on human rights for LGBTI people in Grenada:

Recommendations to Grenada

Many countries urged Grenada to repeal its law criminalizing sexual activity between consenting adults and to adopt a law against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Such advice came from Chile,  Argentina, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.

The response from Grenada

Grenada reported that the issue of discrimination against LGBTI persons was being “considered within the context of the ongoing process of constitutional reform and had been raised in several of the public consultations held throughout Grenada.” It stated:

“Within the democratic process, it was obvious that there was not much support for that issue nationally. It should be noted, however, that apart from the recommendations on constitutional reform made by the Committee to the Government, the Committee had recommended that ordinary legislation be passed with regard to ‘protection against discrimination at workplaces based only on sexual orientation.”

Apparently Grenada did not even consider dropping its law against same-sex intimacy, which provides for a 10-year prison sentence for men who are “guilty of unnatural connexion.”

For more information, read:

Posted in Americas, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Putin pushes ‘Straight Pride’ as a geopolitical power play

Activist Kyle James Rohrich analyzes the geopolitical tactics behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s so-called “straight pride” initiative. Excerpts from his article “The Geopolitics of Intolerance: Putin’s ‘Straight Pride’ “:

By Kyle James Rohrich

The five figures on the Russian "straight pride" flag are labeled "A Real Family."

The five figures on the Russian “straight pride” flag are labeled “A Real Family.”

In response to the United States’ recent Supreme Court ruling to make marriage equality law of the land, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” party offered their rebuttal by unveiling a so-called “straight pride” flag depicting a man and a woman with three children. Per this “traditional values” ideology, the very existence of sexual minorities is a threat to what social conservatives depict as the Russian “traditional” family.

“Straight pride” is a new element of Putin’s increasingly prominent “traditional values” narrative, a conservative credo that Putin seeks to establish as his government’s new ideology aiming at both the Russians and anti-Western or conservative sympathizers abroad. As Russia’s first consistent political narrative since the fall of the Soviet Union, “traditional values” sells well to an increasingly religious populace suffering among other things from a national identity crisis for most of its post-Soviet existence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

Toward establishing a new national narrative, Russian leadership has marginalized a variety of identity groups to rile popular support: Central Asian migrants, feminists, and Euro-sympathizers. However, Putin pulled a winning ticket by putting LGBTI rights in the center of Russia’s new ideological crusade. By taking a stance for so-called “traditional values” in an era where Western governments began to lobby for LGBTI rights internationally, Putin doubled the gains on his political capital. Not only did he garner support of social conservatives opposed to LGBTI rights, but also he rallied Russia’s anti-American base by casting American LGBTI rights promotion as a form of cultural imperialism responsible for “regression, barbarity, and extensive bloodshed.” … With Russians fearing a return to instability of the tumultuous decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin’s message rang loud and clear.

Since Putin adopted the “traditional values” doctrine in 2013, he has promoted the ideology beyond the borders of the Russian Federation to pull homophobic populations into Russia’s geopolitical orbit. In this “World War LGBT,” Putin uses Russia’s newfound “traditional values” ideology instrumentally to rally grassroots support particularly in those countries he views as part of the country’s “near abroad”—namely, the former communist bloc of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

As Ukrainians flocked to Kyiv’s Maidan Square to protest in 2013, Putin referred to the scene as the “Gayeuromaidan,” fusing the concepts of “gay” and “European” in the minds of Ukrainians who may be sympathetic to Europe but oppose LGBTI rights.

More recently, Putin has targeted the citizenship of Moldova, a former Soviet republic that signed an Association Agreement with the EU in 2014. In this religious and conservative country, Russian propaganda has suggested that Moldova’s continued orientation toward Europe would among other things “turn everyone gay.” …

As hetero-nationalists and social conservatives lash out against LGBTI rights from Kyrgyzstan to Turkey, Putin’s political party unveiled a “straight pride” flag as yet another attempt to legitimize his claim that Russia is a beacon of “traditional values”, a counter-ideology to Western liberalism.

However, Russia has among the world’s highest rates of abortions, divorces, and single parenthood; the “modern family” depicted on United Russia’s straight pride flag would be more accurately represented by a single mother with one child as opposed to a full nuclear family. This discrepancy between real and ideal demonstrates that Putin and his followers are not actually out to defend anything. For Putin, “straight pride” and “traditional values” are smoke and mirrors for more important goals, including building a Russian-led counterweight to Europe at the expense of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people caught in the geopolitical crossfire.

Kyle James Rohrich is the founder and executive director/editor-in-chief of “Propaganda,” an online initiative to strengthen cohesion among activists  promoting LGBTI human rights in Europe and Asia.

For more information, read the full article in the Equality Blog.

Posted in Asia, Europe | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Europe ruling may boost LGBTI equality in Caribbean

Jamaican attorney and activist Maurice Tomlinson says yesterday’s court ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, could lead to positive change in the Caribbean.

European Court brings relationship equality to the Caribbean British Overseas Territories?

British Overseas Territories (Map courtesy of FT.com)

British Overseas Territories (Map courtesy of FT.com)

On July 21, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Italy’s ban on civil unions for gays and lesbians.

In a far-reaching decision, the Court found that relationship equality is a human right under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Although this decision is specific to Italy, it is very persuasive precedent for the other 46 members of the Council of Europe and their dependencies. Britain is bound by the decision of this court and so are the British Overseas Territories (BOT).

So, it appears that The Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Monserrat, and The Turks and Caicos may now ALL be required to provide at least civil unions for lesbians and gays, or be in breach of the ECHR.

While these territories are in charge of their domestic laws, Britain is responsible, and liable, for their international obligations and affairs. Therefore, in 2000, Britain had to order that homosexual acts in these islands be expressly decriminalised under the Caribbean Territories (Criminal Law) Order, of the same year. This was done in order to comply with another ECHR ruling, which found that anti-sodomy laws violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

This recent decision of the ECHR creates an interesting legal question, because some of the BOTs have deliberately tried to ignore constitutional protections for LGBTI people. For example, Cayman was heavily criticized by British MPs when their 2009 Constitution specifically defined marriage as only heterosexual and excluded sexual orientation as a ground for non-discrimination.  These provisions were included in response to heavy lobbying by fundamentalist Christians.

Jamaicans are very influential in Cayman, which was once administered by Jamaica. Our evangelicals have maintained a strong presence on the island and have supported the territory’s anti-gay movement.  It is therefore not surprising that Cayman’s very conservative constitution closely mirrors our own and provides no explicit recognition of LGBTI human rights, including the right to private family life.

Posted in Americas, Anti-LGBT laws and legislation, Europe, International pressure for LGBT rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kenya buzzing with anti-gay worries as it awaits Obama’s visit

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (Photo courtesy of Africom.com)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (Photo courtesy of Africom.com)

This has been a busy month for Watetezi, the online site from activist/journalist Denis Nzioka that promotes security for LGBTI Kenyans and reports on the human rights abuses they suffer.

These days, Kenya is abuzz with homophobic outcries, complaints and hand-wringing, sprinkled with news of anti-gay protests and an occasional anti-gay attack.

The latest bout of fearful homophobia started in late April, when Kenya’s High Court ruled that the government could no longer refuse recognition to a law-abiding organization just because it advocates human rights for LGBTI people. Since then the buzz has grown louder as Kenya awaits this month’s planned visit of President Obama, feared as an advocate of fair treatment for LGBTI people. Obama is scheduled to arrive in Kenya on July 24 and leave July 26.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta tried to calm anti-gay citizens’ fears today, saying “The issue of gay rights is a non-issue for us, it is not on the agenda. We have serious issues that we will be addressing,” as reported in The Star.

Barack Obama (Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wiki Commons)

President Barack Obama. (Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wiki Commons)

He also said that Deputy President William Ruto would participate in the talks with Obama. In May, Ruto told a church congregation that in Kenya “we have no room for gays and those others.”

Here are samples of what Watetezi is reporting:

July 21: ALERT: Someone in town near Mr Price/Tom Mboya statue holding banners ‘exposing’ gay organisations, their funders and locations.

July 13: 5,000 Kenyans urged to go NAKED to protest Obama’s support for homosexuality while in Kenya.  [The fringe Republican Liberty Party, with no representatives in the Kenyan parliament, is proposing this protest, based on the bizarre notion that demonstrating the biological differences between males and females would help win converts to their anti-gay position.]

Kenyan Sen. Mike Sonko condemns what is called "gayism" or "gaysm" -- the advocacy of human rights for LGBTI people.

Kenyan Sen. Mike Sonko condemns what is called “gayism” or “gaysm” — the advocacy of human rights for LGBTI people.

July 11: VIDEO: A priest and politician in Nairobi spewing anti gay hate and issuing threats against gays http://ow.ly/Ptd28

July 10: Blackmailer Mark Ronny and Eric Muthoka using new numbers 0701839727, 0713464967; changed names to Kelvin Alfred.

July 9: Alleged gay youth exposed on Facebook followed by crude comments, threats

July 9: 5 Uganda LGBT refugees in Kangemi who were surrounded by a crowd, arrested by police on homosexuality charges have been released

July 9: Gay couple evicted in Kabete estate as public debate on Obama and gay rights heightens. The Star reported:

The Star used this file photo of an LGBT rights protest to illustrate its article about the eviction of two gay men.

The Star used this file photo of an LGBT rights protest to illustrate its article about the eviction of two gay men.

“Gay rights activist Dennis Nzioka has said two men were evicted from their home in Kabete, Nairobi for being homosexuals. …

“Nzioka said that prior to the eviction, rumours had spread among the couple’s neighbours that they were gay and they began to give them a cold shoulder. He said the two had reported their case to his site Watetezi, which monitors human rights violations against the LGBT community. Nzioka said one of the men has been assisted with accommodation following the incident while the other has moved back home with his family. …

“On Monday, a section of Christian organisations held anti-gay demonstrations in the CBD to protest against any attempts to legalize same sex marriages in the country. Led by Bishop Mark Kariuki and Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata, they warned Obama to steer clear of any comments on same sex marriages during his visit.

Denis Nzioka

Denis Nzioka

“Nzioka dismissed the clerics’ concerns saying that Obama will probably not endorse gay marriage, but he will ask Kenyans to respect the human rights of people despite their sexual orientation.

“He added that ‘marriage is the farthest thing’ from the minds of LGBT Kenyans stating that they are faced with more pressing issues such as day to day violence because of their orientation.

” ‘We do not want marriage. We simply want acceptance,’ he said.

“He said the media should highlight how homophobia in the country has led to violence, evictions among other forms of infringement of gay people’s human rights.”

July 9: Yesterday, someone was denied service at a popular bakery in the Nairobi CBD for allegedly ‘looking’ gay.

July 8: ALERT: Suspected BLACKMAILER PlanetRomeo profile name Johnee. Invites people to Jacaranda estate Hse No 137.

July 8: (June 4) Blackmail at Kahawa West. Victim lured via PlanetRomeo. Locked up, beaten whole day. Forced to part with KShs 8500 [US $84]

July 8: PHOTOS: Eric Muthoka + Mark Ronny. Blackmailers operating from Hamza, Uchumi Jogoo Rd. Fake Grindr profiles

July 3: ALERT over ANTI GAY march in Nairobi ‪#‎Watetezi‬

‘Anti gay caucus committee in Parliament, Christian members of Parliament, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, together with the Kenya Christian Professional Forum (KCPF) invite you to for a ‘March for the Family’ (anti-gay march) on Monday, 6th July, 2015 to be flagged off by Bishop Mark Kariuki and David Kamau at 9am. The march starts at Uhuru Park, to Kenyatta avenue then to Moi Avenue then Haile Selaisse then back to Uhuru Park. The march is absolutely free.’

AP reported on July 6:

Low turnout marks anti-gay demonstration in Kenya.

“NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A demonstration against homosexuality in Kenya fizzled Monday after attracting only a handful of protesters.

“The demonstration by about 35 people was called by the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya and timed to coincide with the visit later this month of U.S. President Barack Obama. The group is calling on Obama not to advocate for gay rights during his visit to Africa July 24-28. …

William Ruto, deputy president of Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Kenya-Today.com)

William Ruto, deputy president of Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Kenya-Today.com)

“The protest comes a day after Deputy President William Ruto said same-sex couples should leave the country. Gay sex is a crime in Kenya punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and same-sex partners are likely to receive extra attention from police. The Kenyan gay community also complains of sometimes violent harassment.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Our man in Havana: Cuba’s role in LGBT rights, much more

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle in Havana (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle in Havana (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

From Our Man in Havana:

As America’s Berlin Wall comes down, we need more than symbolism

By the REV. CANON ALBERT OGLE

The Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico left our meeting on Friday from his office where he is the President of the 50-member Cuban Council of Churches to have an urgent meeting with the Cuban government in preparation for yesterday’s historic re-opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington.

Cuban flag is raised at the reopened Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., on July 20, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Demotix.com)

Cuban flag is raised at the reopened Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., on July 20, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Demotix.com)

Two hours later he reported he had been invited as one of 30 representatives of the Cuban people to attend the flag-raising ceremony and needed to go home to tell his family and to pack. The flag that had been lowered over a century ago had been liberated from the state museum and would be taken back to the place of the initial wounding.

I wrote a thesis several years ago entitled “Returning to Places of Wounded Memory –the Role of World Heritage in Reconciliation.” Rev. Dopico was moved to tears when he told me the story that the same U.S. Marine who lowered the American flag in Havana would be returning here to run it up the flagpole in the empty American embassy that overlooks the 95 miles of deep azure ocean that separates our two warring governments. The symbolism is perfect and poignant.

The beginning of reconciliation demands Americans return to the places where we experienced the most vulnerability. The potential hope these symbols bring to  individuals, such as our celebrity-in-waiting retired Marine Officer and Rev. Dopico, is priceless. Words cannot express what this reconnecting means to the few standing around the mast and the millions who will share in the  transformation.

Logo of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Logo of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

These events are occurring in the wake of Cuba’s July 3 vote at the U.N. Human Rights Council in favor of the so-called Protection of the Family resolution [which passed over the objection of the United States and many other countries after its backers refused to accept any language acknowledging the wide variety of human families, leaving it open to misuse by opponents of non-traditional families]. The resolution underscores the importance the American relationship with Cuba.

Although homosexuality is not criminalized here, there is growing concern over the close relationship between Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, and the Cuban administration, led by her father, Cuban president Raúl Castro.

Mariela Castro at an LGBT parade in Havana. (Photo courtesy of TheTime.co.uk)

Mariela Castro at an LGBT parade in Havana. (Photo courtesy of TheTime.co.uk)

There is also concern about how well she actually represents the interests of the LGBT community here. [“Cuban police prevent activist from attending Pride march,” Washington Blade]

As renewed connections between the USA and Cuban faith communities deepen, meaning more travel and funding for projects, the influence of homophobic American organizations may shift the conversation towards a more conservative so-called “pro-family” agenda. As Cuba opens up to the USA and international community, how might their recent role at the HRC play out? There are 6 million Baptists here and 6 million Roman Catholics.

During my current visit, I met with two American delegations who had planned their visits without knowing they would occur at a time when history and justice rhyme.

Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C., performs in Havana. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., performs in Havana. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

The  Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., sang this past week for thousands of Cubans who clapped and gave them standing ovations. Their final concert at the Che Guevara Auditorium filled the air with songs of hope and love, struggle and a commitment to end injustice and even bullying in schools. They sang about speaking your mind as a form of coming out. This is still a frightening call for most Cubans, LGBT and straight. Their ten-day tour was transformative to all of the chorus members, spouses and friends who came here, Chase Maggiano (chorus president) told me as we said goodbye from the Quinto Avenita Hotel, where the rainbow flag remains flying outside the hotel.

They had an opportunity to sing for a several local social services organizations and promised to come back to Cuba with all 300 members soon! As they processed their emotionally charged visit here, some hoped to attend the Cuban flag-raising ceremony on Monday in solidarity with Dopico’s delegation.

A trip to Seminario Evangélico de Teología in Matanzas was part of the Rev. Albert Ogle's trip to Cuba. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

A trip to El Seminario Evangélico de Teología in Matanzas was part of the Rev. Albert Ogle’s trip to Cuba. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

“There is so much to process,” said Chase. The Chorus intends to follow up with some initial fundraising as a result of a concert at Trinity Cathedral in Miami for some Cuban AIDS-related work. Chase’s brother, Grey, is a fellow Episcopal priest at the cathedral and clearly the symbolic gestures of song and flags are beginning to grow roots and deepen. Grey hopes to come here in the fall with a group from Miami.

On Friday evening, the 27th caravan of “Pastors for Peace” arrived. Those visits were first started by the late Rev. Lucius Walker of the New York-based Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO). This year’s caravan was led by Lucius’s daughter, Gail. She spoke passionately at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Havana before a packed congregation about the need to end the blockade now. Pastors for Peace has provided bus-loads of lay and clergy supporters and containers of humanitarian aid between the peoples of Canada, USA, Mexico, Haiti, and other nations.

The movement stresses the reality that the people of North America and Cuba have been in relationship for the past decades because of civil society organizations like Pastors for Peace, long before our governments began talking.  Those visits began with the simple courage and tenacity shown by all their previous supporters, known as caravanistas.

Excellent museums all over Havana tell Cuba's complicated story. This is a restored colonial house in the main cathedral square. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

Excellent museums all over Havana tell Cuba’s complicated story. This is a restored colonial house in the main cathedral square. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

The current caravan began in Canada, crossed 42 US states, raising public awareness of the futility and injustice of the US government’s blockade, and finally entered into Mexico before delivering a container load of medical and other supplies at a port bound for Cuba. IFCO has been doing this for several decades and it is inspiring to see others like the Washington, D.C., chorus and others joining their caravan to deepen the connection between the people of the USA and Cuba.

The US and Cuban governments have to respond and work out ways to ensure equal access to banking, internet and business development for Cubans and others who see reconciliation as the beginning of a new day and new opportunities for all to create.

Old Havana is a crumbling gem that proudly stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The extremes of wealth and poverty, culture and deprivation co-exist. It is not unusual to be propositioned by attractive women on the streets who want to feed their children or see limbless beggars cradle their pet dogs as Havana simply passes them by.

Many people beg on the streets only yards away from the UNESCO-honored architectural treasures in Havana. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

Many people beg on the streets only yards away from the UNESCO-honored architectural treasures in Havana. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

I spent time with a 45-year-old man who had lost his hand in an accident. He shared how good it was to have great care in hospital for free but afterwards he struggles to take care of his aging mother and wife and son. They are both working, but it simply is not enough.

Living Waters is an example of religious organizations helping to provide clean water to the Cuban people. This free water supply is at the ecumenical seminary at Matanzas, about 2 hours from the capital. The seminary is engaged with many social relief programs as a part of its formation program for Cuban clergy. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

Living Waters is an example of religious organizations helping to provide clean water to the Cuban people. This free water supply is at the ecumenical seminary at Matanzas, about 2 hours from the capital. The seminary is engaged with many social relief programs as a part of its formation program for Cuban clergy. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

The poverty in the city is tangible and everywhere you look. It is as if the Cuban people are living in the cemetery of a bygone era, built on the backs of slaves, assembled by imperial greed for gold and silver. Communist ideology has also eroded Havana’s past magnificence. Strategically, this was the center of all that was inhumane, bringing out the worst of us. Every world power had its blood-soaked hands in the till. Museums to Revolutions all over the city attest to the Castro antidote to imperial greed, but the new generation of Cubans simply wants to know they can find meaningful lives, work, live and love freely and connect with the rest of the world where they belong.

The U.S. blockade, like the communist vision of utopia, simply has not worked in a way previous American politicians envisioned. Now it is up to a new generation to return to the place of the wound, raise flags and inspire the hope and courage for a new day.

Governments cannot do the grassroots repairing of relationships that the Chorus or IFCO can do. Similarly, civil society and business cannot do what they are best at doing, if the American and Cuban governments cannot create the climate of engagement and opportunity. We need each other and we cannot leave it to one entity to do it alone.

Symbolism is good, but it is not going to fire the engines we need to jet us into a different stratosphere. This is a long and strategic process of dialogue and mutual self-interest.  We can learn much from each other if everyone does their part. It begins today with pieces of fabric and colors we love. They give identity and meaning for the individuals enacting this symbolism on our shared behalf.

It is America’s Berlin Wall  finally crashing into the sea that invites all Americans into this scary new territory.

Posted in Americas, Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment