- November 24, 2015
In the run-up to Pope Francis' first visit to Africa, there is a growing chorus of African LGBT groups and individuals who have urged Pope Francis to address violence against LGBT people.
Pope Francis, who famously responded "Who am I to judge?" when he was asked about gay Catholic priests early in his papacy, has an opportunity during this visit to speak directly to Catholic clergy in Africa and remind them of his call to open the doors of the church to those who have been marginalized.
"We want a position that is very clear from the Vatican that says, 'Do not discriminate, do not harm homosexuals,' a message of tolerance,” Frank Mugisha, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, told the Associated Press. “I would think if the Pope was here and talking about love, compassion and equality for everyone, Ugandans will listen."
Another voice from Uganda, former Anglican Bishop Disani Christopher Senyonjo, echoed that sentiment. He told Time, "If the Pope can demonstrate understanding of people who are different, that would a good example for the people of Uganda to follow.”
David Kuria, a gay rights activist in Kenya, told Reuters about his own family’s experience. "(My Catholic mother) was kicked out of her village prayer group because she had raised a gay son," he said. “I hope the Pope would say, ‘Love everyone,’ especially those who are still coming to church.”
In Africa, where 16 percent of the world’s Catholic population lives, an alarming 36 countries still have laws that criminalize same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults. LGBT people in these countries suffer daily from state sponsored homophobia, widespread persecution, and are subject to imprisonment and sometimes even death simply because of who they are and whom they love.
Learn more about the Pope’s visit to the U.S. here and for more information about LGBT rights around the globe, visit www.hrc.org/International.