Monday, July 27, 2015

Don't Bring 'The Gay Talk' Here! Kenyan Pastors to Obama

Kenyan Pastors to Obama
By George Thomas
CBN News Sr. Reporter
Thursday, July 23, 2015

NAIROBI, Kenya -- President Barack Obama heads to Kenya Thursday for a global economic summit. It will be Obama's first visit as president to his father's homeland.

While some hope the trip will bring closer ties between our two countries, there's one subject many Kenyans don't want the president to talk about: gay rights and same-sex marriage.

The streets are already buzzing in anticipation of his arrival, with polls showing Obama enjoys widespread popularity among Kenyans.

"I think this is a guy who really appreciates his roots," said one resident of the capital city. "Because he is our brother, we welcome him," Peter, from Nairobi, said.

The president's visit, however, is not without controversy.

Seven hundred Kenyan evangelical pastors have written an open letter asking the president not to come to their country and talk about the gay agenda.

Mark Kariuki is the key architect of that letter. He leads an alliance representing 38,000 churches and 10 million Kenyan Christians.

"We do not want him to come and talk on homosexuality in Kenya or push us to accepting that which is against our faith and culture," Kariuki said.

Kariuki welcomes the president's visit but says leave "the gay talk" in America.
"Let him talk about development; let him talk about cooperation; let him talk about the long-time relationship Kenya has had with America," he said. "But about our beliefs and culture-- keep off!"

Obama has used previous trips to Africa to urge governments to respect gay rights. Kariuki said the open letter is a warning to the president.

"The family is the strength of a nation. If the family is destroyed, then the nation is destroyed," he said. "So we don't want to open doors for our nation to be destroyed!"

Pro-family activists took to the streets of Nairobi this month, urging President Obama to avoid the subject when he visits.

"Since Obama has a Kenyan descent, I think he should be more familiar with our culture. Africa has a conservative culture," said one of the participants in the pro-family rally.

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and 37 other African countries. In fact, Kenya's penal code says any individual "who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" can face 14 years jail time.

Bishop Kariuki said he'll fight to keep homosexuality a crime in Kenya.

"It is an abomination to God. Kenya is 82 percent Christian. So, as far as our conviction and our faith are concerned it is not a natural thing," he said.

Top Kenyan politicians are also weighing in.
"God did not create man and woman so that men would marry men and women marry women," the country's deputy president is quoted saying.

Another lawmaker warned, "We shall tell him to shut up and go home" if he talks about gay rights.

After June's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in America, one Kenyan politician said allowing such a thing in her country would open "floodgates of evil synonymous with the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah."

Many citizens have also taken to Twitter using the hashtag; #KenyansMessageToObama to warn the president about spreading his gay agenda beyond America's shores.

Meanwhile, Bishop Kariuki said the president is destroying America with his support for gay marriage.


"I believe that with all my heart with that agenda he is ruining America because America has been known as a Christian nation," he said. "It has been known as a nation that has sent missionaries out. Now it is a different nation all together because it is an agenda against God!"


July 26
Why Obama Pushed for Gay Rights in Kenya
President Obama’s advocacy for gay rights in Kenya is likely to stir up colonial resentment in the country. But he may have forced a necessary national conversation.

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during remarks at an indoor stadium in Nairobi July 26, 2015.

President Obama’s first visit to Kenya as U.S. president concluded on Sunday and, for all intents and purposes, the journey went well: Obama was greeted by adoring crowds throughout the country and was also able to meet with a number of his relatives.
But the trip did include one tense moment. Appearing at a press conference with his counterpart, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, on Saturday, Obama spoke out about the importance of gay rights in the country.

“As somebody who has family in Kenya and knows the history of how the country so often is held back because women and girls are not treated fairly, I think those same values apply when it comes to different sexual orientations,” he said. He then likened anti-gay discrimination as “the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen.”

“Obama’s message resonated with many Kenyans, and will be debated and work its way through society.”

Kenyatta didn’t take the bait. “For Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” he said. “We want to focus on other issues that really are day-to-day issues for our people.” Kenyans in attendance applauded his remarks.

Gay equality has a long way to go in Africa. Of the continent’s 54 countries, only one, South Africa, has legalized same-sex marriage. In many others, opposition to homosexuality is nearly universal. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, 98 percent of the population of Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, believe homosexuality should not be part of society. The percentages in Senegal and Ghana were scarcely lower. In Uganda, where public opposition reaches 96 percent, rights activists achieved a rare victory in 2014 with the overturning of a law mandating life in prison for many instances of gay sex. But months later, a similar piece of legislation was enacted in Gambia. Attitudes in the continent’s southern countries aren’t much more tolerant. When a Supreme Court decision legalized gay marriage in the United States last month, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe remarked that he would take the opportunity to propose marriage to Obama himself.

In many ways, the situation for LGBT individuals in Kenya is less bleak. Gay and lesbian Kenyans have appeared on television and received respectful coverage in the national media, and gay-friendly clubs are known to exist in Nairobi, the capital. In April, Kenya’s high court legalized a gay rights organization for the first time. But homophobia remains rampant throughout the country, infecting even the top leadership. After April’s ruling William Ruto, Kenya’s deputy president, said in a speech that “we would not allow homosexuality in our nation, as it violates our religious and cultural beliefs.”

Despite Ruto’s frank bigotry—he has also referred to homosexuality as a “dirty act,” a comment that Obama said he “disagreed with”—Kenya’s reticence to accept gay rights exists for a variety of reasons. According to Howard French, a former New York Times correspondent in West Africa now at Columbia University, Obama’s call for tolerance—however well-intentioned—resonated with an welcome tradition of Western leaders lecturing Africans on ways they could improve.

“Africans have been subjected to the judgments of others: what’s right for them, what they’re ready for more than anything else,” French wrote on Twitter on Sunday, adding that “calling something cultural imperialism has nothing to do whether one is in agreement or not with a particular piece of advice.”

A BBC clip filmed on the eve of Obama's arrival presented Kenyans expressing a similar aversion to American meddling. Some of the individuals interviewed announced their support for gay rights—or at least a desire for the government to leave LGBT people alone. But others argued that Obama ought to respect the fact that other countries do not share the American point of view.

“If [Kenyan people] are not comfortable with the gay rights, then [Obama] shouldn’t push,” said a young woman in the clip. “He shouldn’t force it on Africans.”
There is also concern that American advocacy for gay rights may backfire on the continent. After Gambia and Uganda passed their laws criminalizing homosexuality, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the two countries. But according to the New York Times, the sanctions merely hardened public opposition to gay rights.

Do Obama’s comments in Kenya carry that risk? Likely not. And at the very least, they force a national conversation on a topic that the Kenyan government would rather not discuss at all.

“Obama’s message resonated with many Kenyans, and will be debated and work its way through society,” wrote French.

         

2 comments:

FORMER SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS FELLOWSHIP said...

The Salvation Army in Kenya is not a member of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya. This was confirmed today by telephone conversation with THQ Naitobi and the African Department, IHQ - London.

Anonymous said...

Given the Salvation Army's official stance on LGBT 'activities' - why does IHQ need to state the above? Is there something they're not telling the faithful? IHQ should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Bishop in his stance on the issue. After all, Kenya's culture is shared by the Salvationists there - almost all of whom would agree with the bishop.