AIDS panelist: Disagree on theology, but shun genocide

The Rev. Albert Ogle at AIDS Conference panel on AIDS, relgion and indigenous people
The Rev. Albert Ogle at AIDS Conference panel on AIDS, relgion and indigenous people

Repression of indigenous people and of LGBTs share similar patterns that lead to genocide through increased rates of HIV infection and AIDS deaths, the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle said as a member of the “Culture, Religion and Law” panel on the final day of the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

In each case, he said, “we are talking about populations who are difficult to quantify, who are often isolated or excluded from dominant social networks where their stories are silenced and their footprints on the earth unacknowledged.” He added:

These forms of binding become a kind of imprisonment and when it is sanctioned by law, culture and religion it inevitably ends in genocide. The context of these marginalized ones can only be understood fully in the context of colonization and the violence of the state, often in the name of religion and the mystery we call God.

In place of that repression, he proposed that religious leaders, despite disagreements over theology, should agree on a “red line” protecting basic human rights that would not be violated.

“We may disagree about gay marriage in this country but surely we can agree that killing gays and lesbians or imprisoning them in any context should never be sanctioned in the name of God or of the state,” Ogle said. He added:

“Human rights” provides an internationally agreed framework, however limited and imperfect, which provides a red line under which the family of nations has agreed not to go. Above the red line for people of faith is the Imago Dei – the image of God that each human being carries by our very being as part of God’s own creation. All religions share some agreement of the mystical connection we share individually and collectively to the prime source of our creation. The Imago Dei is about our limitless potential as human beings created by God and “bound” sacredly to God and one another.

To use the power of the state to enforce theological viewpoints and unscientific observations deserves to be challenged by all people of goodwill. Both theology and human rights need each other if our ship is to be guided towards less stormy waters.

In 1991-97, he recalled, he “worked closely with the Church of Uganda on its multi-sector prevention strategy to bring down infection rates to under 7% and become a model for the world. In my years of working closely with Uganda, homosexuality was seldom discussed because the issue of HIV was so overwhelming. … The Anglican Church there was conservative and evangelical but it was not homophobic in the way we see it today.”

More recently, he said, the “red line” has repeatedly been crossed:

Beginning in 1997, I saw the growing influence of Christian fundamentalism from the United States in evangelical and vulnerable communities like Uganda. …

Scott Lively (Photo courtesy of TowleRoad.com)
Scott Lively (Photo courtesy of TowleRoad.com)

We can see the result of these relationships in specific cases like the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Bahati Bill) in Uganda where life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality” is proposed. We know deliberate misinformation and fear has driven individuals like American evangelist Scott Lively to directly influence Ugandan lawmakers and religious leaders. …

In the past two years, I have observed that every time an American evangelist appears in Nigeria, Malawi, Uganda or Eastern Europe, lecturing on the need to protect marriage from the homosexual agenda of the West, discriminatory laws often increase, not decrease. Lesbianism has been recently added to the Penal Code in Malawi and only last month the Ugandan Joint Christian Council, (Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Orthodox make up 80% of the population) called for the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Ogle said, “LGBT people share a similar process of being ‘colonized’ by the dominant and more powerful heterosexual cultures we are born into. Heterosexual identity, for this largely invisible population, is something which is alien to our inherent being, yet is imposed upon us from every major institution in our society. The process for healing and transforming sexual colonization for LGBT people globally is a difficult process that could be compared to emerging identities of nations and indigenous peoples within nations engaged in the process of establishing their own identities.”

Read Ogle’s full remarks in his latest RGOD2 column entitled “Religion and HIV.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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