Written by Ben Maina
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 11:45
African society is notoriously religious that’s according to Prof. John Mbithi a renowned expert of religion in Africa. Surely the road to equality in Kenya has faced enormous difficulties because of oppressive laws, conservative culture and intolerant religious dogmas. Religious leaders in particular perceive it to be divine and moral imperative to push for a non- LGBTI tolerant society as a bulwark against perceived threats of same sex marriages.
In many instances LGBTI community has been on the receiving end from Religious groupings a case example the February 2010 Mtwapa attacks where some cleric incited the public and attacked some gay men in the pretence to stop a supposedly gay marriage that never was. These leaders are quick to condemn anything or anyone who is seen as advocating for inclusion of LGBTI rights in the system. This is one of highly polarised issue that brings together both Christian and Muslim clergy to a common table and issue a statement shelving all their differences for that moment in order to attack a common enemy.
The community face a lot of hostility from the religious circles and this has alienated them from their faith. They find it difficult to reconcile between their own sexual orientation and religious traditions. The situation is aggravated by the fact that many of them are born in this religiously conservative environment that treat their sexualities as a bad omen throwing then into confusion on who and where to seek refuge. This in many instances leads to internalised homophobia.
In the wake of this, The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) and its member groups in partnership with Othersheep Kenya, Kenya Human Rights Commission and LLH from Norway have embarked on a journey to delve into LGBTI matters and spirituality. The ground breaking action was a religious retreat for the LGBTI community in Kenya held at Rosa Mystica in Nairobi Kenya last year.
Though GALCK and its Partners are not religious organizations this project emanated from a realization that most LGBTIs felt alienated from their faiths due to constant demonization of the sexual orientation and/or gender identity by the religion.
GALCK has recently developed a Multi- Tier Approach- MTA to decriminalization. One of the components of MTA focuses on the need to engage religious leaders, with a view of generating support for decriminalization from progressive religious leaders. It also hopes to engage with conservative religious leaders to diminish their hostility and at a very least request them to desist from inciting the public to violence against the LGBTI people.
Consequently there is need to develop a tool that reach out to religious leaders to initiate dialogue. The team is also cognisant of the need to trend carefully and not appear to try to change conservative religious leaders mind/ position as they create safe space for the LGBTI. Members of the team unanimously agree not to accuse fingers and the need to give them chance to self express themselves whenever they engage. Expansion of religious network will also be critical. According to Rev. Mike Kimindu of Other sheep, he has met several clergy who are willing to engage but fear the stand of their superiors; he notes that there is need to engage the top leadership of church.
The team continue its meeting this month’s as it plans an outreach to engage Muslim leaders and a possibility to have another religious retreat this year. In the mean time it important to note that Spirituality is the one missing in LGBTIs says Kimindu not religion.