Africans suffer from ‘collateral damage’ in US culture clash

by
19 November 2009

by Pat Ashworth

Recurrent anti-gay protesters in Kampala in 2007 AP

Recurrent anti-gay protesters in Kampala in 2007 AP

RIGHT-WING organisations in the United States are cultivating African religious leaders as part of a strategy to undermine the social witness of US mainline Churches and promote homophobia in Africa, says an in­vesti­gative report by an Anglican priest and scholar, the Revd Kapya Kaoma.

The report, Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, & Homophobia, was com­missioned by the progressive think tank Political Research Associates. It argues that African bishops and other leaders are being used as proxies in an internal US conflict.

The report charts how neo-conservative groups, such as the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), have presented the denom­ina­tions’ commitment to human rights as an imperialistic attempt to manipulate Africans into accepting homosexuality — which they char­acterise as a purely Western phenom­enon — and an attempt to destabilise and corrupt African morals.

Such groups have characterised the denominations — the Episcopal Church in the US, the United Meth­odist Church, and the Presbyterian Church USA — as opposed to family values, the report goes on. Their rhetoric has fomented homophobia in Africa with disastrous conse­quences, such as the proposed anti-gay Bill in Uganda, it suggests. Sexual minorities have become “the collat­eral damage” of US domestic conflict.

The report lists the tactics used, including the use of money and the ghost-writing by US conservatives of key speeches by African religious leaders. US religious conservatives have successfully presented themselves as representatives of mainstream US Evangelicalism.

The report suggests: “Many Afri­cans do not distinguish, for example, between the Christian Right, Evan­gelicals, the neo-conservative IRD, mainline renewal movements, [the] Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and [the] right-wing megachurch leader Rick Warren.”

The conservative renewal groups are generally small, says the report, but their relationship with wealthy US donors and powerful African bishops has made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.

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African Churches are being persuaded to separate from their international partnerships and to realign with conservative replacements. These tactics have been most successful in countries such as Nigeria and Uganda, which the report characterises as those where political leadership is dictatorial and civil society weak.

Americans fomenting homophobia abroad must be exposed and challenged, the report says. And it warns: “Unless the conservatives are confronted with ‘progressive counter-movements’, they will succeed in taking over mainline US churches.”

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THE General Synod of the Church of Canada passed a resolu­tion last weekend expressing its “dis­may and con­cern” over the Ugandan Anti-Homo­sexuality Bill (News, 13 Nov­ember), writes Pat Ashworth.

THE General Synod of the Church of Canada passed a resolu­tion last weekend expressing its “dis­may and con­cern” over the Ugandan Anti-Homo­sexuality Bill (News, 13 Nov­ember), writes Pat Ashworth.

It would “severely impede the human rights of Ugandan citizens both at home and abroad”, and “impose excessive and cruel penalties on persons who experience same-sex attraction as well as those who counsel, support, and advise them, including family members and clergy”, said the resolution, moved by the Bishop of New Westminster, the Rt Revd Michael Ingham.

It would “severely impede the human rights of Ugandan citizens both at home and abroad”, and “impose excessive and cruel penalties on persons who experience same-sex attraction as well as those who counsel, support, and advise them, including family members and clergy”, said the resolution, moved by the Bishop of New Westminster, the Rt Revd Michael Ingham.

It calls on the Church of the Province of Uganda to oppose the Bill, and the Canadian gov­ern­ment to “convey to the gov­ern­ment of Uganda a deep sense of alarm about this fundamental vio­lation of human rights and, through diplomatic chan­nels, to press for its withdrawal”.

It calls on the Church of the Province of Uganda to oppose the Bill, and the Canadian gov­ern­ment to “convey to the gov­ern­ment of Uganda a deep sense of alarm about this fundamental vio­lation of human rights and, through diplomatic chan­nels, to press for its withdrawal”.

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