Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We Cannot Allow Another Holocaust!

Internet Debris

We Cannot Allow Another Holocaust 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
– Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
– and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemöller (German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor) 

by Neal McKenna, Johannesburg, 4/9/14

We all know something about it. It’s ugly and it’s burning across the world like wildfire. Human rights abuses targeting sexual minorities are a modern-day version of the 17th century witch hunts in Europe and the settled lands of America. Only this time, the holocaust is on a global scale.

On March 31, 2014, at Kololo stadium in Kampala, 30,000 supporters gathered at a national rally organised by the Interreligious Council of Uganda in support of the recent Anti-Homosexuality legislation. There, they gave thanks to President Yoweri Museveni for passing the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The event combined the fanfare of a mass political meeting and a cultural festival. Addressing this massive audience, Museveni began with: “There is a fundamental misunderstanding between us and the liberal west. They say that homosexuality is sex. But it is not sex. …There are other words in Luganda for sex. I won’t tell you those words.” The crowd laughed, enjoying the coy omission. “But if you take homosexuality, the Ugandan people don’t call it “sex”. They call it “ekifire.”

A loose translation of “ekifire.” is “half-dead, yet still living.” Thus, those perceived as “sexual deviants” are dehumanised, relegated to being things – zombies preying on children – not people. Consequently, these “abnormals” become much easier to hate and destroy. Death for the victims is neither fast nor easy. Gays and those merely suspected of being gay are whipped, bludgeoned and often burned alive – all in the name of conservatism – and of course, God.  

Aside from Uganda, atrocities continue in Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi as well as supposedly progressive countries like South Africa. Here’s an example. On March 22, 2014, David Olyn from Ceres, in the Western Cape, was murdered in a premeditated act of violence. His alleged attacker, prior to the beating invited at least seven teens to witness the assault, saying he was “going to kill a moffie”. The 28-year-old man has since been arrested and charged.

While on the subject of South Africa, in spite of the Constitution stipulating equality for all, according to a Pew Research Study conducted in 2013, 61% of the population would prefer to have this equality stripped from LGBTIs. It seems God-fearing Christian South Africans would be more comfortable if gays had no rights at all, because “they are abnormal and recruit children into their sick lifestyle”.

This sentiment has been moved another step farther when this past April, president Jacob Zuma responded to a parliamentary question on whether or not he intended to make clear South Africa's policy position regarding Uganda's anti-homosexuality law. In reply, Zuma said: "South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries to adopt their own legislation." So the nation of South Africa plans to do nothing about Human Rights abuses happening right next door. This decision has been made in spite of the fact that in 2011, this country’s delegates at the United Nations introduced a resolution to guarantee Human Rights for all people – including LGBTIs – around the world. Clearly, our fearless leader is asleep at the wheel.

However, to be fair, Africa is not alone in its quest of “deviant cleansing”. Injustices and violence can also be found in South Asia – India is a prime example – the Arab States and Eastern Europe. Even permissive Western Europe is not exempt, with recent anti-LGBTI outbursts occurring in France. The erosion of LGBTI rights, recent criminalisation trends and increased persecution by state authorities, strongly indicate more and more governments employ homo-intolerance as a political campaigning tool, using discriminatory legislation as a vote-winner. Paradoxically, the notion that homosexuality is un-African is not historically correct. Long before the colonial era, many African cultures contained an element of accepted homosexuality. And to prove it, anthropologists have discovered more than twenty cultural varieties of indigenous African same-sex intimacy. 

For 300 years, Europeans and Americans colonised much of Africa. With them they brought their culture and their God. The result today is African despots use the Bible to support their anti-gay agendas even though, ironically, the Bible is utterly “un-African.” But why is anti-gay sentiment gaining such momentum now? The answer is diabolically clever. It is a convenient political means of anti-Western resistance, which strangely enough, is generally backed by Westerners themselves.

According to Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Episcopal priest, “‘African’ ideas about homosexuality are often those spread by American Evangelicals, out to colonise Africa spiritually rather than politically.”  American anti-gay organisations such as Human Life International and opponents like Lou Engle and Scott Lively are scarcely known in the United States but in Africa, Lively in particular, is a crusading American Evangelical megastar.

Scott Lively is a radical American pastor who specialises in stirring up anti-gay sentiment around the globe. He first visited Uganda in 2002. Since then, he has cultivated ties with influential politicians and religious leaders heading-up the nation's anti-gay movement. Just before the first draft of Uganda's anti-gay bill began circulating in April 2009, Lively travelled to Kampala giving lengthy presentations to members of parliament and cabinet. These talks became the basis of what Uganda's president and lawmakers would later use to justify the country's draconian anti-gay crackdown.

According to Ugandan gay rights activists, Lively has played an unparalleled role in fostering the climate of hate. “Uganda's anti-gay law is essentially his creation,” says Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, which is a coalition of gay rights organizations. Mugisha's group has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in US federal court, accusing Lively of international crimes against humanity on the grounds he and his Ugandan allies allegedly conspired to deprive gay Ugandans of basic human rights.

The purpose of the enacted anti-gay law is to combat Western agitators trying to unravel Uganda's social fabric by spreading the “disease” of homosexuality to children. “They're looking for other people to be able to prey upon,” Lively said in video footage. “When they see a child that's from a broken home, it's like they have a flashing neon sign over their head.” Lively’s most convenient tools are fear, disinformation and outright lies.

Westerners such as Lively bring comparatively large sums of cash and influence and they are gladly met by opportunistic African leaders. However, each side is using the other. Evangelicals shift policy and are able to raise money to be pumped into cooperative countries and conveniently, their African collaborators can posture against “Western imperialism” and also get rich. The only big losers are the marginalised – those who get ostracised, beaten and murdered. 

That’s the downside but there is also an upside. If anti-gay rabble rousers can take cohesive action so can we. Of course, people always say: “What can I do? I’m just one person.” Well, if a group of individuals band together, they create a collective voice that gets louder as their numbers grow. Do anything to combat this purge. Start a petition; find a way to boycott or humiliate a homophobic country; attend demonstrations at embassies; start a pro-gay Facebook blog page or offer your services to one that’s already established. All these little things add up.

For example, the Pretoria based Call to Action to Stop Persecution of Sexual Minorities was created in March of this year – by two people. Its first order of business was to have Facebook shut down an anti-gay hate page called the Uganda Youth Coalition Against Homosexuality. On it were horrific photos of gays who had been burned alive along with appalling hate speech. It took several email complaints as Facebook flip-flopped with the page being removed and then quickly revived. Finally, a socially-responsible decision was made when the Call to Action created a petition through Within 24 hours of establishing the petition, the UYCAH page was down for good.

The next hurtle was convincing civil society must be accountable to their own prime directives. Several large organisations like Oxfam, CARE and ActionAid were reminded they could not to pick and choose which human rights battles to fight – that human rights are everybody’s rights. This was, naturally, met with canned replies and quiet resistance but the Call to Action persisted. With the help of people within these organisations, a concerted plan of action was put into place.

While CARE and ActionAid have not taken any official stand, Oxfam has conceded it cannot continue to sit back and look the other way. Currently Oxfam does have a nebulous general policy on LGBTI rights. However, in the light of the current situation, those at the top agree this is not good enough. Over the next several months – these things always take time – policy will be developed regarding LGBTI rights while also determining the most effective influencing strategies.

Both the removal of the hate page on Facebook and getting a large civil society player like Oxfam to re-evaluate policy is an amazing feat accomplished by a few people with just a blog page and no budget. That’s why people – like you and me – have to step up to say “NO”. If we don’t, persecution of sexual minorities will not only continue, it will spread like a lethal virus. We cannot allow history to repeat itself by unleashing another holocaust. Now is the time to stop the violence and discrimination against LGBTIs – people like us. So you see, there is actually a lot we can do; all we have to do is get started.

What lies beneath...

Spooky Reading

Buy it here  

If you like what you see here

- tell your friends!