Death threats force cancellation of Ethiopia trip

A Chicago company canceled a tour of Ethiopia for gay travelers after religious leaders there warned that the tourists might be killed by anti-gay Ethiopians.

Dan Ware, owner of Toto Tours: “It’s like a blow to the heart.”

“If Toto Tours comes to Ethiopia where 97 percent of Ethiopians surveyed oppose homosexuality, they will be damaged, they could even die,” said Dereje Negash, vice chairman of an influential Ethiopian Orthodox organisation, the Sileste Mihret United Association.

Some of the death threats were even more extreme.

“We had descriptions of buried alive, burned alive; I had an ISIS-type video with a guy with a mask on his head, brandishing his sword saying we are going to cut your throat,” said Dan Ware, owner of Toto Tours. “It was not something to ignore.”

NBC Chicago reported further:

Ethiopia's location in East Africa
Ethiopia’s location in East Africa

“One of the emails was you cannot come here you are not even human,” expressed Dan Ware, owner of Toto Tours. “You are less than human. So that, it’s like a blow to the heart.”

Ware said he was devastated he had to cancel his upcoming trip because they accused them of promoting a different lifestyle, “of trying to pervert their youth…this being sex tourism,” after publishing the itinerary online. …

The Rogers Park-based tour company has been serving the LGBTQ community since 1990 and has traveled around the world, including to countries where homosexual activity is illegal.

Despite its reputation, his well-traveled clients had hoped to experience Ethiopia’s rich history but there were even calls for the government to ban the tour, according to the BBC.

“We weren’t going to raise the gay flag at the holy sites, which is what I think they thought we were going to do,” he said.

Ware decided to cancel the October trip after unreturned correspondence with government officials and recent killings, but says he hopes the situation brings awareness to the greater cause -– acceptance around the world.

“Many people have reached out and said, ‘thank you for raising this to consciousness,’ for getting the world talking about the issue of what’s going on,” Ware said.

The group still hopes to travel to Ethiopia one day but under a name that will perhaps draw less attention. Toto Tours said they would refund customers.

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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 [email protected]

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