Homophobia Activists Target Religion

Homosexuals around the globe observed the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) today with this year's theme targeting religious bigotry.

"Across the world, in many different social and cultural contexts, homophobic and transphobic violence is being propagated by people who use religious arguments to justify their positions," a statement on the IDAHO website says. "But other voices do exist everywhere also within these same religions to object to the use of religions to justify hatred and rejection and sometimes even violence, crimes and bloodshed."

"The objective of this campaign is to expose and oppose the negative impact of religious fundamentalist discourses and to give visibility and promotion to voices who are working for inclusion, tolerance and peace," it says.

IDAHO's organizers are particularly focusing on countries in Africa this year, including Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda, whose draconian anti-homosexuality laws, according to IDAHO, have been influenced by evangelicals in the United States.

"Africa may seem far away to most Americans, but purveyors of hate against gays in the United States have played a key, behind-the-scenes role promoting anti-gay legislation in at least one country, Uganda," a statement from IDAHO says. "Moreover, the anti-gay hate pumped out by American evangelicals here and missionaries abroad is simply a more 'respectable' version of the hate which is at the root of anti-gay mob violence in Africa."

According to the Rev. Rowland Jide, a Nigerian pastor of House of Rainbow, however, all religious people, including Christians, have been perpetrators of anti-homosexual bigotry and hate crimes.

"All over the world, transphobic and homophobic violence is often perpetrated by conservative people who use religion to justify their acts. This is not the privilege of any specific religion and it would be only too easy to find examples related to outburst of violence in Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, animist, etc… contexts," Jide said.

"Leading to a climate of violence, exclusion, hate and discrimination within the faith groups and believers, these expressions of violence also indirectly influence many non-believers or atheist people, and lead them to opinions and acts that attack the dignity, safety and sometimes the very lives of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people," he says.

"Far from being a phenomenon of the past, this religious violence is a persistent, and sometimes an increasing reality in many countries. The conservative religious right is also mandating its theology of violence and exclusion into the political realms as well."

This year marks the sixth consecutive observance of IDAHO, and also marks the beginning of International Same-Sex Hand Holding Week, which is designed to make headway for homosexual couples who are nervous about holding hands in public.

IDAHO's observance date was chosen because it marks the day that the World Health Organization took homosexuality off the international classification of diseases in 1990.

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