Friday, December 6, 2013

Who Would Jesus Hate?

Via JMG: RUSSIA: Elton John Denounces Anti-Gay Laws From Stage Of Moscow Concert, Dedicates Show To Slain Gay Man

"You took me to your hearts all these years ago and you've always welcomed me with warmth and open arms any time I've visited. You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia. In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating. People have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here.

"I want to show them and the world that I care and that I don't believe in isolating people. Music is a very powerful thing. It brings people together irrespective of their age, their race, their sexuality, or their religion. It does not discriminate. Look around you tonight. You see men, women, young and old, gay and straight. Thousands of Russian people enjoying the music. We're all here together in harmony and harmony is what makes a happy family and a strong society.

"The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don't leave it behind when you leave tonight. Each and every one of you please, keep this spirit in your life and in your heart. I wish you love and peace and health and happiness. And this show is dedicated to the memory of Vladislav Tornovoi. - Elton John, reading from the stage tonight at his concert in Moscow.

NOTE: Vladislav Tornovoi was the 23 year-old gay man murdered earlier this year in Volgograd after coming out to drinking companions, who mutilated his genitals with a beer bottle and then set his body on fire.

NOTE II: I transcribed the above from a non-embeddable video posted to Facebook today. I'll post video here as soon as it becomes available.

NOTE III: It should go without saying Elton has certainly put himself at risk, although Russian authorities would likely be very hesitant to move on a star of his caliber. I wasn't crazy about the idea of him going to Russia at all, but I think he handled tonight admirably.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via Guardan (2007): Ugandan gays demand freedom

Ugandan gays demand freedom

Ugandan government ministers are demanding the arrest of the country's lesbian and gay human rights activists. Deputy attorney general Fred Ruhinde and minister of ethics and integrity Nsaba Buturo made the call last month in a series of radio broadcasts heard across country.

They are backed by Christian, Muslim and Bahai religious leaders who are calling for all "homos" to be rounded up and locked away.

Buturo told the BBC that his government opposed equality for gay people and would not decriminalise gay sexual relationships. He branded homosexuality as "shameful, abominable and ungodly ... (and) unnatural". Urging gays to get out of Uganda he warned ominously: "We know them, we have details of who they are."

Buturo then went even further by attending a church-orchestrated anti-gay rally held in the capital Kampala on August 21. It was a de facto show of government support for homophobic religious zealots who denounced homosexuality as "immoral" and paraded with placards urging: "Arrest all homos." The rally was organised by the interfaith coalition against homosexuality, an alliance of Christian, Muslim and Bahai organisations.

The homophobic backlash in Uganda is in response to a new campaign called "Let us live in peace". It is organised by a small group of brave, inspiring Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights activists. They are challenging decades of systematic discrimination and violence suffered by LGBTI Ugandans. Much of this homophobic persecution is incited by President Yoweri Museveni's government, by Kampala's notoriously sensationalist tabloid press and, most shockingly of all, by the Anglican church of Uganda.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has failed to condemn the homophobic witch-hunt that is being stirred up by Anglican bishops in Uganda. Indeed, he has gone out of his way to embrace and appease them in a desperate bid to stop them splitting from the Anglican Communion. Liberal and gay Ugandans are dismayed by the archbishop's silence and indifference.

The attacks on the LGBTI community in Uganda are symptomatic of the increasing authoritarianism of the government of President Museveni, who seems to be heading in the same direction as President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

President Museveni's regime stands accused of rigged elections, censorship of the media, repression of protests, crackdowns on universities and trade unions, detention without trial and the use of torture. Details of these abuses are documented in my Talking With Tatchell TV interview with Ugandan opposition activists, which you can watch here.

Despite state and church repression, the new LGBTI "Let us live in peace" campaign is defiant. It has been organised a coalition of several LGBTI organisations operating under the name sexual minorities Uganda or Smug.

On August 17, they held Uganda's first ever LGBTI human rights press conference at the Speke Hotel, where speakers called for an end to homophobic discrimination in the legal, education and health systems. Many of those who attended the press conference wore masks and gave only first names, because they were fearful of identification and arrest.

Smug speakers reported that the police are guilty of gross harassment of law-abiding LGBTI people. Officers often demand sexual favours or personal bribes in exchange for release from custody on trumped-up charges.

The Smug campaigners also highlighted the health problems LGBTI people face, particularly HIV/Aids, which often go untreated due to fear of persecution by homophobic doctors and the police. Lesbian and gay people are excluded from Uganda's anti-HIV/Aids prevention and support programmes. Smug declared: "We have had enough of the abuse, neglect and violence."

Smug is led by Victor Juliet Mukasa, a transgender lesbian who is one of Uganda's very few LGBTI activists willing to be identified and speak openly in public. Mukasa was forced to flee temporarily into exile in South Africa in fear of her life after police raided her home in 2005. She has now returned to Uganda to spearhead the new campaign and to pursue a civil lawsuit against the government ministers who sanctioned the raid on her home.

In Uganda, male homosexuality is illegal under archaic laws imposed during the period of British colonial rule. Section 140 of the country's penal code criminalises "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Section 141 bans "attempts at carnal knowledge", stipulating a maximum penalty of seven years jail; while section 143 punishes "gross indecency" between men in public or private and authorises a top sentence of five years.

The Ugandan government openly flouts international human rights conventions that guarantee equal rights and non-discrimination, including the African charter on human and peoples' rights which Uganda ratified in 1986 and has promised to uphold.

The escalating attacks on LGBTI people began in 1999, when a state-owned newspaper reported that President Museveni had ordered the arrest and imprisonment of homosexuals. The New Vision newspaper quoted Museveni as saying: "I have told the Criminal Investigations Department to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them."

Five years later, in 2004, government minister Nsaba Buturo ordered the police to investigate and "take appropriate action" against a gay organisation at Makerere University.

The following year, President Museveni signed a constitutional amendment that made same-sex marriages illegal. Article 31 of the constitution now states "marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited".

The government has also attempted to silence discussion of rights for LGBTI people. The country's broadcasting council fined a radio station for hosting a discussion involving a lesbian and two gay men, where they called for greater understanding of LGBTI people and for the anti-sodomy law to be repealed.

The media is also guilty of rabid homophobia. In 2006 and again this month, the tabloid newspaper Red Pepper outed dozens of alleged lesbians and gay and bisexual men. The paper claimed it was doing this in order to "show the nation how fast the terrible vice known as sodomy is eating up our society". You can read samples of the lurid, shock-horror, gay-baiting headlines and news stories on the OutRage! photo website.

The pervasive "state homophobia," as Human Rights Watch has called it, together with the allied media witch-hunts, make it all the more extraordinary and praiseworthy that members of Smug have taken such a public and defiant stand in defence of LGBTI equality. Their courage is truly inspirational. In defending LGBTI rights against an increasingly authoritarian state, they are ultimately defending the liberties and human rights of all Ugandans - gay and straight. Bravo!

Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma December 6, 2013

Social Action and Buddhism

Understandably, Buddhism often appears to promote personal transformation at the expense of social concern. Some Buddhist teachings claim that the mind does not just affect the world, it actually creates and sustains it. According to this view, cosmic harmony is most effectively preserved through an individual's spiritual practice. Yet other Buddhists amend the notion that mind is the primary or exclusive source of peace, contending that inner serenity is fostered or impeded by external conditions. Buddhists who place importance upon social factors and social action believe that internal transformation cannot, by itself, quell the world's turbulence.
- Kenneth Kraft, "Meditation in Action"
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