Yesterday I received an email inviting me to sign a petition. I get these fairly often, usually from Change.org or the Democrats, alerting me to some grave issue that requires my clicktivist engagement right away. Sometimes I join if it seems a worthwhile cause, but usually it gets deleted.
The petition I received yesterday was from All Out, an organization whose mission is to build “a global movement for love and equality.” A worthy goal, if a tad… shall we say… lofty.
All Out is mobilizing millions of people to build a world where no person will have to sacrifice their family or freedom, safety or dignity, because of who they are or who they love.
If anything, they’re doing a fairly good job of alerting people to issues around the world, such as human rights abuses and instances of LGBT discrimination and persecution. And they are bringing together LGBT advocacy organizations to combat institutionalized prejudice and hate.
The petition yesterday was intended to put pressure on Orange, “one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators, present in 32 countries,” to remove its advertisements from a Ugandan tabloid that recently published the names of “Uganda’s Top 200 Homos.” This just a day after its president, Yoweri Museveni, signed the “Kill The Gays” bill into law.
Getting Orange to pull the adverts wouldn’t just send a message to the editor of the Ugandan tabloid — it would show the Ugandan government that a major investor doesn’t approve of the anti-gay law. If more companies join in, the Ugandan government won’t be able to ignore the potential damage to their economy of their attacks on human rights.
While this is a good sentiment and a good start, having grown up in Evangelical culture I know that this approach won’t ultimately do much good. The authors of this petition are assuming that Ugandans (and Evangelicals) care what the international community thinks. They think that sanctions and cuts to aid from other nations will convince Uganda’s leaders that the bill was a bad idea, and that human rights is the best way to go.
In short, they’re assuming that they’re reasonable people.
What they don’t understand is that Evangelicals believe that our world is a spiritual battle ground, divided between God and Satan.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you… If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)
They’re not being criticized and their aid is not being cut because they’re bigots. They are experiencing backlash because they believe they’re doing “God’s work.”
I grew up being told that if we lived true to the Bible and God’s commandments, non-Christians (i.e., “the world”) would turn on us. When someone made fun of us for not using profanity or “saving ourselves for marriage,” we weren’t the real target — Jesus was the target.
If you listen to any ultra conservative bent on outlawing marriage equality or screaming about “religious liberty,” these are the Bible verses you’ll hear. They believe that a time is coming when Christians will be thrown in jail and possibly even executed for their beliefs.
No, really. Seriously.
I’m currently watching the fourth season of the Star Trek series Deep Space 9. The other night I saw the episode “Accession,” in which a Bajoran poet who disappeared two hundred years earlier mysteriously reappears through the wormhole. He claim to be the Emissary and to speak for the “prophets,” demanding that Bajorans return to “d’jarra,” an ancient caste system. This doesn’t go over well with everyone. The decree also puts Bajor’s application to Federation in jeopardy. But the religious leaders in favor of the “d’jarra” believe that following the “prophets” is worth any consequence that may result.
In the same way, the Ugandan government doesn’t care if it loses standing in the international community, if Western nations cut off funding and aid, if advertisers pull spots from newspapers, or international businesses pull out of the country.
I’m not sure how many Evangelicals really believe they’re following the commandments of their “God” by attempting to deny LGBT people equal human rights. Frankly, I think it’s part of the song and dance they perform to help themselves sleep at night.
I believe it is the responsibility of the ninety-four nations that signed the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to offer asylum to LGBT Africans affected by these bills. Yesterday, I sent a letter to the director of U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services, asking him to do that. I’m also writing to activists to ask if there are any organizations working to help relocate LGBT Africans to safer areas.
What we need is for Western nations that claim to welcome LGBT people to offer asylum to displaced Ugandans and Nigerians (and Russians). Like the Underground Railroad of the 19th Century, we could build a “Rainbow Road” for people currently living without hope. Many of these people are living in poverty, with little to no means of immigrating, now in fear of being exposed, punished, and even killed.
Secretary of State John Kerry recently said: “People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.”
I believe we’ve a responsibility to try to and make that a reality.
UPDATE: This site was recommended as a potential resource for helping LGBT Ugandans: ugandans4rights.org.