Other Sheep Kenya held seminar for parents, friends of lesbian and gay (PFLAG) persons in Nakuru on Feb 19. A total number of 32 participants attended the one day workshop. The seminar theme was “Sexuality and homophobia/transphobia in view of religious dogma”. The participants were drawn from Muslim, Seventh Day Adventist, Supkem, United Methodist Church, Friends church, Reconciling Ministries Network, Family Hope, Human Rights Network, , Mid Rift Human rights Network, God’s Family Church, Africa Independent Pentecostal church, Catholic church, Integrity, Changing Attitude, Kinship International, Home Vision Kenya, St. Joseph Youth Center, Brahma Kumaris, Kenya Youth Alliance, Teachers, Thairira widows, and Anglican church.

Rev. Michael Kimindu; Other Sheep East Africa Coordinator  said that what happened in coastal town of Mombasa, Mtwapa where gay rights were attacked was a result of homophobia and transphobia catapulted by religious dogma. He said “Let us respect sexuality and human rights and focus on God who is love”.

He said that Jesus Christ welcomed the marginalized and discriminated persons in the Jewish culture such as Gentiles, Samaritans, women, children and lepers. This was the voice of inclusion filled with compassion that we should emulate.

He said that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill being debated in Uganda if
it becomes law then life will be tough for all people. Other Sheep
wishes that this draft does not see the rise of sunshine.

Rev. John Makokha; Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator said that throughout history of mankind, religion has been used to spearhead oppression, racism, patriarchy, slavery and ignorance. He told religious leaders of Abrahamic faiths such as Christianity and Islam to study beyond the holy books, the new researched knowledge such as psychology, psychiatry and anthropology on matters of sexuality. Theology should also grow like any other discipline.

He said that homosexuality is very African and LGBTI are our
brothers, sisters and friends. He said “It is un African to hate your
neighbor or kill your neighbor because of his sexual orientation”.

He advised religious leaders and community organizations to come up with MSM/ WSW HIV/AIDS Initiatives in order to effectively prevent the spread of HIV, and care and treatment of infected partners. He said “Kenya National AIDS strategic plan (KNASP 111) recognizes an outreach to MSM. The men who have sex with men are considered the most-at-risk population. However, there is a contradiction when homosexuality is still outlawed in Kenya.

He said that sexual orientation is never chosen but discovered. The
Committee of Experts on Constitutional review should ensure that the rights of LGBTI and asexual persons are protected just like
heterosexuals. It is social injustice for the rights of sexual minorities to be ignored in our religious institutions in our independent nation.

Anne Baraza; Other Sheep Kenya Counselor said that religious leaders and community organizations need to enhance LGBTI peer counseling and education. She said that research by reputable institutions has shown that being gay is not mental illness.

She said most counselors in Africa do not know how to handle LGBTI
persons who seek their professional services. They are also homophobic. She stressed that it was frustrating for an LGBTI client to face a homophobic counselor, pastor or Imam.

She advised parents to be close to their children so that these
children can open up and even be free to share with them issues
affecting them like sexual orientation. She lamented that parents are
‘very busy’ that they don’t have time to know their children better.
When they come to learn about their children’s sexual orientation they then rush to any counselor with the notion of changing this ‘queer behavior.’ Unfortunately these counselors start on the exodus journey which ends up in futility.

Pastor Jackson, Other Sheep Kenya Rift Valley Coordinator and SDA
minister said that research has shown that gays are intelligent and
people of integrity. They are doing excellent work in various careers
and professions in our nation. He said “They are contributing towards the national building just like heterosexuals”.

Peter Wanyama, Other Sheep Kenya treasurer talking about the
challenges facing the gay community noted the gay unfriendly medical providers such as VCT and clinical treatment. He said one doctor screamed when the patient explained to him about his anal sexual intercourse.

The seminar participants made the following observations;

  1. The Kiswahili term “shoga” referring to gay was culturally
    unacceptable since contextually it means gay commercial sex workers. It demeans sexual orientation. They suggested a proper translation to be found.
  2. They requested for more seminars lasting 3 to 5 days for them to understand sexual orientation and on how to handle LGBTI in their respective communities.
  3. They need more LGBTI peer counseling and education seminars to be equipped with knowledge and skills since they confessed the gay community in Nakuru is high.
  4. They requested some sexual orientation seminar for the deaf persons who have been ignored and yet they exist.
  5. They expected Other Sheep Kenya to have a safe house and resource center for further studies and research materials.
  6. The current Christian Religious Education syllabus in Kenya
    categorizes Homosexuality under immorality.
  7. The participants requested Other Sheep to make a formal appeal to the ministry of education to differentiate sexual orientation from sexual behavior.
  8. They requested to be given seminar participation certificates in
    future.

PS: These seminars were made possible with the grant support from
UHAI-EASHRI

Rev. John Makokha

Rev. John Makokha is senior pastor of Riruta UMC in Nairobi, Kenya. He earned his B.Ed. Degree at the University of Nairobi and served as graduate teacher at Maji Mazuri High School. There, he taught Kiswahili and history and communications skills. In addition, he was a counselor, mentor, drama patron and chaired the school’s HIV/AIDS association.
He was ordained as a minister in the Triumphant Pentecostal Church and served as a pastor in a Free Methodist Church. After earning an M.A. degree in Missions at Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology, he started Riruta United Methodist Church, the only Reconciling Ministry in Africa.
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