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Monday, 18 January 2010

How religionists fan the flames of hate in Africa

Africa is becoming a battleground for pro- and anti-gay factions, according to the Sunday Times.

A disturbing article by R W Johnson in Cape Town highlights a case in Malawi, where a male couple who dared to want to marry can expect up to 14 years in jail.

The trial of a young male couple charged with unnatural practices and gross indecency after announcing their engagement in Malawi was adjourned last week when one of the accused collapsed in court while enduring jeers from the public gallery.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, was made to return with a mop to clean up his own vomit, even though he has malaria.

He and his boyfriend, Steven Monjeza, 26, have been held in Chichiri prison, Blantyre, for more than a week – in order, the judge says, to protect them from mob violence.

And, when Western evangelicals are fanning the flames of hatred, what can you expect? It was Christian missionaries who took the idea that gay sex was bad to Africa in the first place. Now, conservative – read bigoted – African leaders and clergymen say it’s a “disease” imported from the West.

It all goes to show how religious ideas of what’s “right” and “wrong” with sexuality can stoke up those flames of hatred until there’s a conflagration.

The Sunday Times piece continues:

Both sides accuse the other [each side accuses the other, for goodness’ sake!] of being driven by external influences: gay rights campaigners say conservative American evangelists are encouraging homophobia, while the anti-gay side insists that homosexuality is only surfacing openly in Africa because of western encouragement.

Some argue that the African rows over homosexuality are really a proxy skirmish in an American cultural dispute, with both evangelicals and gay rights groups in the US pouring in money and support.

The difference between the evangelicals and gay-rights groups is that the former are motivated by hate, while the latter are motivated by a wish to free gay men and women from the oppression and worse they’re suffering because of ignorance and bigotry.

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