kapya kaoma

In 2002, I came to the United States for graduate studies. I sought out the evangelical wing of the Episcopal Church but soon discovered that my beliefs conflicted with much of contemporary evangelicalism in the United States. I believed, for example, the debate over contraception had been settled long ago – since that decision should be guided by one’s conscience – and helping the poor is a Christian duty, since every human being is made in the sacred image of God. I was surprised, therefore, to learn that many Christians in the evangelical movement in the United States oppose healthcare for the poor as well as gun-control laws, demonize immigrants, and place the United States Constitution on par with the Bible. Even more surprising was my discovery that the arguments I had often heard African bishops use against LGBTI people were not African in origin. Rather, they were the talking points developed by conservative evangelicals in the United States.

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, “American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.”

(This is also a nice reminder that labels like “evangelical” do not mean the same thing around the world.)

Given the persecution of sexual minorities on the African continent, the growing chorus of public condemnation from Western and UN officials is understandable. Yet it is frequently tone deaf to local realities and can even endanger the people it intends to defend. Threats of punitive measures have served to legitimize the conservatives’ contention that homosexuality is an imposition by the West, and have helped recast human rights advocates in the role of neocolonialists, further endangering human rights work on the continent….

We must never forget that the rising attacks against [sexual and reproductive health and rights] and sexual minorities in Africa have their genesis in the United States. Americans of conscience, regardless of faith or sexuality, have a responsibility – and a tremendous opportunity – to stop the human tragedy unleashed abroad by our own countrymen and -women. We can stand with African human rights defenders in meaningful and effective solidarity, and we can hold American culture warriors accountable for their attacks on human rights here and around the globe… It is critical that, in deed and word, we move from a framework of interventionism to a framework of solidarity with African human rights movements. Africa’s human rights defenders are better positioned than their Western allies to win this battle.

—  Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, “American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.”