US Evangelical Christians Blamed for Endorsing Homophobia in Africa

US Evangelical Christians Blamed for Endorsing Homophobia

According to the Boston-based liberal think tank Political Research Associates (PRA), American right-wingers have been trying to promote anti-gay and anti-abortion sentiments in the African continent for years. Reportedly, Christian evangelical groups in the United States have been setting up offices in different African countries in an attempt to “culturally colonize” them by urging locals to attack issues such as homosexuality and abortion.

PRA named the Evangelical organization American Center for Law and Justice, the Christian organization Human Life International and the Mormon organization Family Watch International along with several others and said that they have been lobbying for conservative policies and laws to be implemented in a number of African countries like Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. According to their report, each of these organizations “frame their agendas as authentically African, in an effort to brand human rights advocacy as a new colonialism bent on destroying cultural values and traditions.”

In the last five years, each of these organizations have either launched or expanded their work and started promoting a Christian-right worldview in Africa, by primarily backing renowned political leaders and campaigners in the continent.

Kapya Kaoma, an evangelical priest from Zambia who co-authored the report said that right-wing Christian groups have been telling locals that ideas like homosexuality are “un-African” and have been popularized by the West. “Homosexuality was denounced in the Bible rather than in any African culture. As different countries were colonized, this notion spread as well. There is nothing foreign about homosexuality but it becomes so when presented in Christian-right language,” he said.

The study also found that some countries are more welcoming to U.S. Christian-right campaigners than others are. This is partly because of the support provided by such organizations to government officials. For instance, the presidents of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda accused their oppositions of encouraging homosexuality, to weaken their influence and bring the influential African religious conservatives to their own side. In fact, it was Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe who invited American Center for Law and Justice to his country and asked for offices to be opened, lawyers to be trained and the constitution to be reworked so that it would reflect “Christian values”.

Similar efforts were made in Kenya and Zimbabwe as well when their constitutions had phrases like “life begins at conception” included. According to Kaoma, Family Watch International has been spreading untrue information as the truth in Africa. For instance, the organization has said terms like “sexual identity” and “gender rights” are reflective of homosexuality.

Kaoma believes that these American groups have been trying to find a foothold in Africa because they have been losing their members in the United States.

“They seem to know they are losing the battle in the U.S., the best they can do is to be seen to be winning somewhere. This gives them a reason to be fundraising in the U.S. Africa is a pawn in the battle they are fighting at home,” he said.

While gay rights campaigners have welcomed the report, Human Life International along with other organizations named in the study, have rejected most of its claims and denied practicing a new kind of colonialism in the region.

“We expect your more thoughtful readers to note the irony in PRA's argument. Powerful Western governments and very wealthy NGOs spend billions annually to stop Africans from having children, to change African laws to be more accommodating to this population control, all in an effort to make them culturally more like the West. And the PRA, a proponent of this effort, is accusing a small group of Christian organizations, who together spend a tiny fraction of the development industry's annual budget to preserve pro-life and pro-family natural African values, of ‘colonialism’,” said Stephen Phelan, spokesperson, Human Life International.

Photo Credits: Jialiang Gao

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