SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Conservative U.S. Christian “family values” and religious organizations are setting up fronts in Africa to fight for anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation to promote their fundamentalist convictions, according to a report released Tuesday by the progressive think tank Political Research Associates.
The result of a months-long on-the-ground investigation, the study — “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, authored by PRA religion and sexuality researcher Reverend Dr. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia — investigates the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, the Roman Catholic Human Life International, Mormon Sharon Slater’s Family Watch International, and the growing network of charismatic and dominionist Christians known as the Transformation movement or New Apostolic Reformation.
The groups frame their agendas as authentically African in an effort to brand human rights advocacy as a new colonialism bent on destroying cultural traditions and values, according to PRA.
“Yet it is the U.S. Christian Right that is using African religious and political leaders to remake African values, pushing for stiffer laws through misinformation and lies,” writes Kaoma. “This is the new form of colonialism that Africans human rights supporters and their allies should stand up against.”
The anti-abortion and anti-LGBT legislation seen today in Sub-Saharan Africa nations are a key legacy of the British, French, and Dutch colonial governments.
But, according to Kaoma’s investigative study, U.S. Christian Right groups label human rights supporters as “neocolonialists” imposing liberal sexual mores on Africa.
Hiding behind African staff, these groups have established local offices and befriended key African political and religious leaders, the report alleges. The charismatic beliefs shared by many African Christians and American religious conservatives has also created an opening for the U.S. right-wing to exploit.
The study reveals ACLJ’s efforts to influence the constitution-writing process in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and the anti-LGBT and anti-reproductive justice activities of the other groups in such countries as Uganda, Malawi and Zambia.
Prominent rights activists in Africa voiced hope that the report’s finiding will result in strong condemnation of the U.S. Christian Right’s dangerous advocacy in Africa.
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG), stated,
“I’m grateful for the documentation in the report that confirms that it is homophobia (not homosexuality) that is exported from the West,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG).
“I hope this report serves as a wake up call for faith communities in Uganda and the West alike, to realize that the American culture wars imposed on us by the Christian Right threaten not only African culture, but the very lives of LGBTI Africans like me.”
“Colonizing African Values” comes in the aftermath of Uganda’s infamous 2009 Anti-Homosexuality (“Kill the Gays”) Bill, which is described as part of a larger coordinated assault on sexual rights in Africa. Though the bill previously failed to pass, its reintroduction in February coincides with a rise in anti-gay legislation in several other African nations.
Amnesty International has reported an increasing intolerance in Africa that has resulted in “harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murders” against homosexuals in Africa. The report said the new campaigns also have caused more oppression of women by restricting their reproductive freedoms.
The American Christian Rights’ efforts have found fertile ground among many homophobic Africans, but they have not been as successful in pushing anti-abortion legislation, the report said.
Illegal abortions are performed without hindrance across most of sub-Saharan Africa, and no efforts are made to prosecute those involved, the report found.
The report further describes the threat to opponents of such draconian policies.
Joyce Banda, the new president of Malawi, has publicly refused to enforce such discriminatory laws, but faces significant opposition from her leading challenger in 2014, a born-again Christian with significant ties to U.S. Evangelical groups.
Banda recently explained part of the rationale for her principled stance:
“As leaders in this part of the world [Africa], which is the epicenter of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, we need to harness our efforts in confronting antiquated beliefs based on fear and misinformation, that are codified in our laws and engraved in our cultures.”
The report includes profiles by experts on the U.S. right wing, describing the featured Christian Right actors in detail. Among these is ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, who shares a close association with Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as well as Sharon Slater, who uses her United Nations access to undermine that body’s sexual and human rights agenda.
“Groups and individuals profiled in this report will have to answer to the American public for their actions abroad,” stated PRA Executive Director Tarso Luís Ramos.
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