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Feature Article of Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Columnist: Kufuor, Appiah-Danquah

Leave Nana Oye Alone “Christian Talibans”.

My attention has been drawn to the comments of the leader of the so called Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana regarding the appointments of Nana Oye and Raymond Atuguba. This sanctimonious and holy thine thou attitude of some church leaders in Ghana needs to be challenged and face head on.

What is Nana Oye’s Crime?

What is Nana Oye’s crime? For stating that homosexuals must be treated with respect and dignity? Habba, many church leaders in Ghana and other sub-Sahara Africa countries have branded homosexual activities as “unbiblical, un-African, abnormal and filthy”. I have no problems with the churches view of homosexuality. Unfettered free speech is the hall mark of any civilised society, however the possible incitement to hate, persecute and terrorise homosexuals must be condemned.

In France, many are concerned about the legalisation of Gay marriages as step too far but the majority of French people or the French Christian Church will not oppose the appointment of an French citizen to a high office just because he/she ahs liberal views on homosexuality. Why do we pick on minorities? Why would a loving, caring compassionate servant King say about the utterances of his followers on earth? I want to be categoric, unambiguous and clear. Any attempt by any group of people to demonise homosexuals will be fiercely resisted by all progressive elements of society. All forms of “racism and prejudice” must and will be challenged.

The comments of the Concerned Clergy Association (CCA) reminded me about the writings of the British imperialist Rudyard Kipling. In his poem “The White Man’s Burden”, Mr Kipling used words such as ‘half-devil and half child’ to refer to the conquered black people on the Philippine Islands. We would all agree that Mr Kipling was wrong in his description of black people. Equally the CCA is equally wrong to chastise Nana Oye for her support for the persecuted homosexuality community in Ghana. Nana Oye must not state his views on the practice of homosexuality- that is his democratic right as a citizen of Ghana. Like the members of CCA, all of us have the right and freedom to live our lives without interference from the state or any organisation.

Why Support Nana Oye?

Why support Nana Oye? Readers may ask - are you homosexual? What is your concern? The simple answer is firstly, my sexual orientation is an irrelevance. Second, as a Ghanaian , and if I may add a practising Christian I have every right to express my views on topics concerning national identity, cohesiveness and outright prejudice. Today is Nana Oye, tomorrow it might be Kofi Osei, then Maame Adwoa, then Appiah Kufuor – where do we stop?

Pastor Niemoeller, a victim of the Nazi Holocaust got it right when he stated: “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew; then they came for the communist and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist; then they came for the trade unionist and I did not speak out- because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Affirmative Action

Many readers will be fully aware that until the mid-1960s legal barriers prevented blacks and other racial minorities in the United States from entering many jobs and educational institutions. President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was the first President to use the term affirmative action. It was used by President John F. Kennedy in a 1961 executive order designed to encourage contractors on projects financed with federal funds to racially integrate their workforces. Kennedy’s executive order declared that federal contractors should ' take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to race, creed, colour or national origin. ‘JFK was right to promote affirmative action. Discrimination on any grounds is evil, unchristian and morally wrong. Nana Oye must and should not be penalised for his liberal views on homosexuality. Prejudice and discrimination must be opposed by all progressive democrats and loving and compassionate christians.

Role of Religion in Gay- Bashing

Maybe, our African brothers and sisters need reminding of a very basic simple truth: the majority of Europeans at the time of the slave trade perceived and genuinely believed that our ancestors were “primitive and sub- human people” and were only fit to be enslaved. Some prominent preachers at the time quoted the scriptures to justify their actions. Ironically, the wealth of many churches was accumulated on the sweat of black slave labour.

I am neither a theologian nor a fundamentalist Christian evangelical soul. I am just a mere mortal, an ordinary Christian who passionately believes in the compassionate nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. His most simple and all encompassing teaching was that we should love one another. He did not qualify that in any way by listing exceptions such as race, creed, colour or sexuality.

Whereas, religion cannot be blamed for all the ills of society, there is empirical and strong anecdotal evidence to show that religion can have a strong effect on people developing negative attitudes towards gay people. There are particular features in Christian scripture, theology, institutions and practices that may foster anti-homosexual beliefs and actions, including gay bashing.

Ghanaians must not hide behind the erroneous notion of “moral equivalence” by wishing evil away. It is morally wrong to claim; in effect every church is on the bandwagon so we might as well get on it. No, let us stand up and be counted for what is right.

Cultural Beliefs

As a Ghanaian, I was brought up with the same cultural values as most of the members of CAC. The majority of Ghanaians have strong religious beliefs buttressed by a cultural identity that disapproves of homosexuality. For example, my late grandmother never believed that it existed - Bless Her.

I have no issue with the teaching of the Church being disapproving of the sexual orientation of homosexuals on religious, cultural and moral grounds. A good Christian precept is to “hate the sin but love the sinner”. The problem arises when “democratic disagreements” turns into stigmatisation and downright prejudicial acts.

My worry is, in a democratic nation citizens must be free to go about their daily business and make live the life of their choice without religious bigots entering the democratic space. Nigeria is in danger of being torn apart by religious zealots who are hell bent on implementing sharia law. Do we want Ghana to follow suit? Of course the Taliban in Afghanistan do believe that women are second class citizens, Christians are infidels and thieves the scum of the earth whose hands should be chopped off. Do the Christian church wants to behave as the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Our Responsibility and Duty

When Martin Luther King made his powerful “I have a dream...” speech, his aims were those of the original civil rights movement advocates. He was arguing for laws which were ‘colour-blind '. He believed that no one should be judged by the colour of their skin and that opportunities should be open to all. Equally, no one and that includes Nana Oye and Raymond Atuguba should be judged by his/her support for the gay community.

As individuals, we must have a substantial change in attitudes. The church in particular must preach tolerance, forgiveness and compassion. The church must take a lead in stopping the stigmatisation of homosexuality and start to use “Christian language and terminology” in their description of homosexuals. In the end, “no one is without sin”, and who is to judge? - Let alone cast the first stone?

Second, young people must be taught to effectively tackle issues of homophobia and address prejudicial attitudes and discrimination – in all its forms. Prejudice is never right, whatever form it takes.

Third, the Press must act as the fourth estate. It must not publish speeches and statements that are clearly prejudicial, discriminatory, and offensive and which may lead to hate crimes.

I am African and fully support the democratic rights of homosexuals. I am prepared to seek legal recourse for the rights of homosexuals to be acknowledged in Ghana. African leaders including religious leaders have no monopoly over moral issues- far from it. We all have to make moral and ethical choices and make sure we do the right thing – always.

Conclusion

In concluding, when these ‘Christian Taliban’s” petition parliament our honourables must have the guts to send them packing. I sincerely hope members of the Select Committee on Appointments will ask Ghanaian religious leaders to take up arms against the corrupt and bankrupt political leaders that siphon off millions of hard earned foreign currencies for their own luxury. I hope an MP will have the nerve and bottle to ask these CCA guys to concentrate on their vocation.

I wish church leaders in Ghana will start preaching against the huge disparity between the poor and rich; the extreme poverty that exists in most communities in Ghana, the greedy; exploitative; selfish leaders that abound on the continent.

I wish Ghanaian church leaders will join the Anas fight and start a “religious war” against the killing of disabled children, the utter contemptible practice of sending our grandmothers in the North to witch camps; the hundreds of kayoyo girls sleeping rough on the streets of Accra; the unfair system of Trokosi; the prosperity church leaders who siphon monies from poor followers; the crooked church leaders who sleep with minors; the uncaring and unloving church pastors who create hate among families by casting out witches and demonizing aunties and grannies.

I wish Ghanaian church leaders will extend the “religious war” to eliminate child labour, promote the rights of women, start productive activities for poor church members and extend a hand of friendship and love to persecuted minorities.

I wish our African preachers, would start preaching the good news of the gospel which liberates the poor and empowers the millions of people living in the shanty towns.

I wish African preachers would join hands with all progressive elements in society to work hard to create a society that is free of prejudice, hate and discrimination- the hall mark of our Servant King-Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, I wish our so called Christian clergy will stop acting as “Christian Taliban’s”.

God Bless Us All Appiah- Danquah Kufuor

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