Pope’s Trip Is Still On. African Gays Want Him To Preach Tolerance

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Despite security fears, Pope Francis wants to stick to his plans for a five-day visit to Africa this week, where he’ll preach peace, social justice and conciliation between Islam and Christianity, AFP reports in BusinessDayLive.

He’ll be visiting Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic, where Catholics represent 32 percent, 47 percent and 29 percent of the populations, respectively.

Francis has reaffirmed the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, but his more inclusive approach has encouraged many gay Catholics while annoying conservatives, Reuters reported, according to BusinessInsider.

African gays are sometimes persecuted in the streets and in courts. They want the pope to bring a message of tolerance even if he will not bless their sexuality.

In Kenya and Uganda, many conservative Christians dislike the idea of the West forcing its morality on them, especially when it comes to gays and lesbians, according to BusinessInsider.

Homosexuality is illegal in most of Africa with South Africa being the only African country that where gay or lesbian marriage is legal. Being gay is not a sin but homosexual acts are, according to the Catholic church.

“I would like the Pope to at least make people know that being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) is not a curse,” said Jackson Mukasa, 20, in a Reuters interview. Mukasa was imprisoned in 2014 in Uganda on suspicion of committing homosexual acts but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

“Being a gay in Uganda is a challenge. You expect mob justice, you expect to be killed, you expect to be arrested,” said Mukasa, who also goes by the name Princess Rihanna.

The Vatican said the trip to CAR schedule could be changed or that part of the trip cancelled if security risks increase. These include recent terror attacks in Mali. CAR’s interim President Catherine Samba-Panza could reduce the visit to just a few hours at the Bangui airport with U.N. peacekeepers watching.

There’s great anticipation for the Pope’s scheduled visits including a camp in CAR for displaced people, mass in a sports stadium in the capital, and prayers at a mosque in Bangui’s PK5 neighborhood.

Pope Francis plans on opening a “Holy Door” in Bangui’s cathedral 10 days before the start of the Jubilee Year, an important period for the Catholic Church devoted to reconciliation and forgiveness.

“If he opens the Holy Door in Bangui, a Jubilee Year will begin for the first time ever in the periphery” rather than the church’s seat in the Vatican, said Giulio Albanese, an African expert with Radio Vatican, AFP reported.

“It would be the best summary of the pope’s doctrinal attitude,” of a humble church dedicated to the poor, he said.

The progression of gay rights in the U.S. and Europe, where same-sex couples can marry and adopt children, has encouraged gay Africans but discouraged those who object to the idea on religious grounds, Reuters reports.

“If he starts talking about rights, then Ugandans are going to be very defensive,” said Frank Mugisha, a Catholic and one of Uganda’s most outspoken advocates for gay rights. “But I would think if the Pope was here and talking about love, compassion and equality for everyone, Ugandans will listen.”

Mugisha, who is director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said he hoped the Pope would bring a message that gays and lesbians should be “treated like any other children of God.”

Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle but Uganda has chosen not to persecute those “who have fallen victim to it,” said Shaban Bantariza, a government spokesman, according to Reuters. “We hope the Pope’s message will not diverge from the core beliefs of Ugandans,” Bantariza said.

Kenyan law allows for jailing those involved in homosexual acts but rarely prosecutes, according to Reuters. Kenya has been relatively tolerant to homosexuality and plays host to about 500 gay refugees from neighboring Uganda.