African leaders counter Obama's 'ideological colonization' in Kenya
US president Barack Obama speaks at Georgetown University, May 12, 2015. Credit: Matt Hadro/CNA.
“Even if people don’t like us for it, our Church has always said homosexuality is unnatural and marriage is between a man and a woman,” Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja told the News Agency of Nigeria July 26.
He stressed that “there is no question of the Catholic Church changing its positions on this matter.”
Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, a Ghanaian, also weighed in on the U.S. president’s comments, emphasizing that for the Church, homosexual activity is both contrary to the law of God and “anti-human,” Breitbart News reports.
He said that although the Church respects homosexual individuals since they are created in the image and likeness of God, it cannot support homosexual acts and is committed to upholding “the fundamental truth about marriage and family life.”
Cardinal Onaiyekan and Archbishop Palmer Buckle’s comments fell the day after Obama advocated for gay rights during his two-day visit to Kenya, after which he travelled to Ethiopia.
In his July 25 speech at a joint news conference with his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama spoke out about the importance of gay rights, despite requests from Kenya’s leaders to not address the issue. Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya, as well as several other African countries.
“With respect to the rights of gays and lesbians, I have been consistent all across Africa on this,” Obama said. “I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the State should not discriminate against the people based on their sexual orientation.”
Prior to Obama’s visit, 700 evangelical pastors wrote an open letter asking the president not to use the trip as an occasion to push the homosexual agenda.
Mark Kariuki, who leads of an alliance of 38,000 churches and 10 million Kenyan Christians, was the primary author of the letter.
“We do not want (Obama) to come and talk on homosexuality in Kenya or push us to accepting that which is against our faith and culture,” Kariuki wrote.
In response to Obama’s comments, Kenyatta noted that while the U.S. and Kenya hold many values and goals in common, such as democracy and entrepreneurship, gay rights is not one of them.
“It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept. This is why I repeatedly say for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is generally a non-issue. We want to focus on other areas.”
Both Kenya's deputy president, William Ruto, and the speaker of its National Assembly, Justin Muturi, spoke publicly against same-sex marriage in the day's leading up to Obama's visit.
Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, who is Nigerian, responded to Obama's advocacy saying, “Most Africans care about religious values, about the family, about the complementary nature of man and woman and the culture that makes us Africans. Why can we not choose what 'benevolence' to accept from the West? Why can we not just be helped to fight corruption, terrorism, unemployment disease and illiteracy?”
“Nobody should be killed for private wayward or immoral behaviors that do not compromise other people's lives,” the bishop affirmed, “but that does not mean all kinds of exotic sexual adventure must be foisted on other nationalities in the name of rights.”
“America claims to be a great democracy and the proof of that fact will be found in her capacity for sincere dialogue and readiness to respect the legitimate values and world view of other peoples,” Bishop Badejo concluded.
The negative response to Obama's advocacy come amid other responses to what Pope Francis has called the “ideological colonization” of poorer countries by wealthy Western nations.
Pope Francis has frequently spoken out against aid and humanitarian organizations which make support of gay rights, abortion, and birth control a condition for receiving assistance. Speaking in Manila Jan. 16, the Pope decried the “new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family,” warning against efforts “to redefine the very institution of marriage.”
A few days later, Pope Francis again cautioned against this new form of colonialism: “A people enters with an idea that has nothing nothing to do with the nation … and they colonize the people with an idea that changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure," he said Jan. 19 during a press conference on his return flight to Rome from the Philippines.
The Pope's statements have been echoed by bishops across the developing world.
At the beginning of July, the Nigerian bishops conference issued a statement reacting to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ireland and the U.S.
In their statement, the bishops re-emphasized that “marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman for the begetting and care of children.”
The Nigerian bishops voiced concern that countries such as Canada, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, and the U.S., which have approved such unions and which hold profound influence over Africa, will begin to influence people’s opinion on the matter.
These countries, they noted, “also give generous humanitarian aid to various establishments and projects in our country and continent.”
Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila has noted that foreign aid given to the Philippines is oftentimes is linked to some measures that the receiving country is somehow forced to accept … some of the conditions for the aid seem to be an acceptance or a welcoming of some views regarding marriage, or sexuality, or what, which could be alien to the vision of the receiving country or culture.”
And Bishop Badejo, the Nigerian who chairs communications for the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), said in a February interview with Aleteia that the U.S. has made its help in fighting the radical Islamist group Boko Haram contingent on the Nigeria's support of homosexual acts.
“The United States actually said it would help Nigeria with Boko Haram only if we modify our laws concerning homosexuality, family planning and birth control,” he said.
“It’s very clear that a cultural imperialism exists. In fact, I think that Africa is suffering greatly from a cultural imperialism that threatens to erode our cultural values.”
Bishop Badejo called the U.S. decision “criminal,” saying that if the West boasts of the value they place on human freedom, they shouldn’t try to impose values on Africa with which its people do not agree.
“It is part of human freedom … if the West cherishes freedom for gays and homosexual unions and abortion and contraception, suppose Africans are not wired that way,” he said.
“There is a diminishing sense of the respect for the sanctity of life. And all of this is to be imposed on Africa, at whatever cost: we think that it is immoral and that it is unjust.”