Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Discrimination in Kenya

I thought some of you might be interested in this  video about HIV/AIDS in Kenya.
It was issued yesterday by Christian Aid and The Guardian newspaper jointly, the first in a series of 6, one appearing each Monday, on tackling poverty in Africa. This one shows how discrimination against gay men, or men who have sex with men, means they don't have access to HIV/AIDS testing, counselling and treatment. It speaks of the very strong discrimination against sexual minorities in the churches of East Africa - but also shows the Rev. Michael Kimindu, who long ago challenged the discrimination, and started Other Sheep East Africa  as a positive ministry for sexual minorities and to encourage Christians to re-think their attitude.

1 comment:

  1. When I first began working in the hospital team, our team administrator was a Kenyan woman. She was overtly Christian – as a team we made a formal complaint about her sending round ‘witnessing’ e-mails – e-mails with scraps of Scripture and ‘thought for day’ kind of thing. I complained about this – as I complained about work e-mail being used to send sick jokes too; I wasn’t being anti-Christian, just that work e-mail should be for work purposes and so you can’t stop one kind of needless e-mail without banning another!

    Although we got on well, I was always rather cagy about discussing my private life in front of this member of staff. However, one day my partner called in work to pick up something and the administrator – Edith, I’ll call her, though this isn’t her real name – then realised that my partner was not a woman, as she had presumed, but a man. Edith and I got very well (she would often pick my brain for Scripture references) and so she felt confident in our relationship that she could announce one day that in Kenya there were no homosexuals. I laughed at this – but she assured me, there were no homosexuals and she also stated that it was because of the problems of Western society that we had homosexuals in Britain. Obviously if this conversation was going the other way – and I was making offensive remarks about Christians or Africans there is a good chance, in London local authority culture, my companion would have run off to her line manager or the Christian Institute and complained about racism or being persecuted as a Christian, respectively. I didn’t make a complaint about homophobia, though as there were witnesses I could have done. But what good would it have done? The only way you can really move forward with the bigoted and opinionated (and I suffer from the latter social malady myself!) is by patience and education. Making an issue out of something only creates factions and discord (Anglican Mainstream take note...). Also, by then I was old enough to know fate has a curious means of delivering an example that serves to educate the ignorant and bigoted.

    Edith and I worked together more and more as I took up a new role in the team and so spent less time in my office and more time in the duty office, where I sat opposite Edith. As happens in office relationships, we became (and have remained) friends. One day I toddled into work to find her looking very glum. It transpired her husband had returned from Kenya, where they held land and a business, to find her engaged in a spot of extra marital congress. As we had become friendly enough for me to ask her how she could hold such biblically ‘orthodox’ views when it came to homosexuality and yet happily engage in adultery: ‘It is part of our culture.’ She told me – it is common for married men and women to have affairs. It happened that at the time a friend of mine was working for CMS in Kenya and on return to the UK he said the same, extra-marital relationships were common Kenyan Christians (which perhaps suggests why the HIV infection rate is higher in Christian areas of Kenya and lower in predominantly Muslim areas?).

    A year or so passed and one day Edith asked me if there were any organisations that could help her nephew get asylum in the UK because he was gay and was being persecuted in her home village in Kenya. I looked her in the eye and said’ But Edith, there are no homosexuals in Kenya – you said so!’ Obviously I gave information on approaching various organisations that might be able to help – but I found it curious how this story unfolded. I think this take demonstrates the complexity of social and religious forces that ‘create’ ‘social reality’. Edith told me there were no homosexuals in Kenya, yet even when she said it, she must have known this to be untrue.

    I’ve no other comment to make, I just thought it an apt story to put alongside this post.