Hard work and progress toward LGBT rights in Africa, Jamaica

Albert Ogle
The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of the St. Paul’s Foundation, tells of the foundation’s latest work with activists seeking equality in Jamaica, Uganda, Cameroon and Malawi:

This coming week marks the fourth birthday of the St. Paul’s Foundation. We have much to celebrate in the short time we have pooled our resources to work together for an important shared value: global equality. I want to alert you to some upcoming events and important dates to share just how far we have come from an initial gathering of these dreams and ideas. Clearly, 2013 is far from over, and our work is far from completed.

A year ago, our delegates to the Spirit of 76 Initiative returned home following the International AIDS Conference. We remain in touch with many of our activists, faithfully supporting those who await asylum, listening to the unmet needs of others and I wish we had more resources to build a stronger and deeper network. You can read more about specific people and projects here:

In the film "Love Heals Homophobia," heterosexual African- American clergy discuss their spiritual journeys that led them to understand the importance of loving, not hating, LGBT people. (Click on the image to see the trailer.)
In the film “Love Heals Homophobia,” heterosexual African-American clergy discuss their spiritual journeys that led them to understand the importance of loving, not hating, LGBT people. (Click on the image to see the trailer.)

Love Heals Homophobia — our first film

Angeline Jackson requested we make a film where heterosexual African-American clergy could share their spiritual journey to LGBT acceptance and that film has been miraculously made and will have its public debut in Washington on October 11th. All our donors will receive a free copy.

You can find out about our screening of “Love Heals Homophobia” screening here (a PDF file).

Angeline also wanted to start her own non-profit agency for Jamaican lesbians and we were able to forward funds this month from generous donors like you to make this happen.

Support for work in Kenya

Jane Wothaya from Kenya returned to the USA this month to begin a one year internship program with HRC’s International specialist, Ty Cobb. We are delighted Ty and Jane are working together.

Fighting HIV and homophobia in Uganda

I spent a lot of time this year in Uganda and with Ugandans where the initial HIV work of the St. Paul’s Centre has expanded to include 14 organizations led by Most At Risk Populations Network (MARPS). We completed our three years of support to Bishop Christopher’s ministry and intend to continue the work in Uganda through the Good Samaritan Consortium. 50 people are about to undergo an intensive training program to provide community-based healthcare and HIV testing and outreach to the LGBT community. The Foundation will sponsor this initial program and assist MARPS Network with two organizational retreats to deepen the Consortium’s new venture, so more people can be served in Uganda.

The World Bank and the economic cost of homophobia

Maxensia Nakibuuka of Uganda and the Rev. MacDonald Sembereka of Malawi shared [their experiences and insights] with the World Bank earlier this year and will be part of a delegation to Rome later this month as we seek to engage other faith organizations engaged in HIV work internationally. The Foundation was invited by the Bank to select the first-ever LGBT representative to attend the Annual Meeting of the IMF and Bank in October and to represent the voice of millions of LGBT people who are kept in poverty by unjust laws that deem us criminals.

Seizing an opportunity for change in Cameroon

This October, we will also continue to show our commitment to the still shell-shocked Cameroonian community recovering after Eric Lembembe’s brutal murder. We are halfway to raising funds to allow four individuals to personally present an important report to the African Commission on Peoples and Human Rights as they meet in the Gambia. The African continent needs to hold its leaders and the government of Cameroon accountable for well-documented human rights abuses.

Eric Lembembe (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Eric Lembembe (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Eric Lembembe was a young leader who lived and died for this community. He was passionate about reducing the spread of HIV and stigma and as a devout Catholic, wanted to educate his church about being LGBT. Even though his Archbishop railed against Eric and his community as people who were responsible for “Crimes Against Humanity”, this never stopped Eric from believing in people’s goodness and if they were educated more on this issue, Cameroonians would be able to work together with the common goal to reduce HIV and stigma. Eric never lived to see his dream come true and his tortured body was found in his apartment, limbs and neck broken and disfigured by an electric iron. Despite the brutality of this murder, his government and church failed to condemn the crime or to call for a full investigation. I have never seen this kind of institutional neglect and collusion as we have seen with Eric’s death.

Others are joining a chorus where this silence will be broken because we cannot participate in this kind of inhumanity and cruelty. Some of us are donating a few dollars to ensure his friends and colleagues are present and will speak powerfully, loudly and demand an investigation.

Eric’s legacy has still to be realized and his mantle falls upon us to ensure African governments protect all their citizens including those who work in the politically dangerous area of HIV prevention and care. We are seeing more and more HIV workers imprisoned, subjected to exile and violence and worse, abandoned by organizations that clearly have the resources to protect them and do not. Silence and indifference can be transformed when we step out, and though many of us will never have to work or simply love with the constant threat of violence, we can reach out to support the few individuals we know who can make a major difference.

Our most important work

As I said earlier, 2013 is far from over and I believe this year holds and cherishes our most important work since we stepped out three years ago. We are particularly encouraged by the good news that one of our donors has pledged $100,000 if we can find $100,000 from others who are passionate and will journey with us, friends in Cameroon, in Uganda and Jamaica and Malawi and other places.

As we enter our fourth year, there is much to be thankful for and we have never asked our donors to consider pledging to this movement, until now. $10, $20 or whatever you can afford on a monthly basis would ensure we not only met the challenge by the end of the year, but continue to be in solidarity with these wonderful people mentioned here.

How to take action

  • Help the matching fund campaign today — visit our website.
  • Download poster to the premiere of the film for DC supporters here.
  • Justice 4 Eric Lembembe campaign. Find out why this is important HERE. Two African Human Rights Commission attendees funded and two to go!

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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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