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Today is the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations offered a declaration celebrating this 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Bachelet calls us to breathe new life into the declaration. She says: “It is, I firmly believe, as relevant today as it was when it was adopted 70 years ago. It provides us with the basis for ensuring equal rights for groups, such as LGBTI people, whom few would even dare name in 1948. But, 70 years after its adoptions, the work the Universal Declaration lays down for us is far from over. And it will never be.”

Leading up to this 70th anniversary, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights organized “Shine Your Light for Human Rights” around the world, These Shine the Light events illustrate the wide range of human rights issues affecting people, communities and our planet. They also illustrate intersectionality—the interconnected nature of human rights.

A key part of celebrating this 70th anniversary is the call for each person to take action. Everyone of us can take action in several ways—to promote, to engage and to reflect—with this #StandUp4HumanRights campaign. So, please take some time to reflect upon what the principles of human rights mean to you, your family and friends, and to your community and country. And, then create your own message about human rights and #HumanRightsDay for sharing on social media by using the hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights

In 2012, the Global Faith and Justice Project was founded to amplify faith voices that protect human dignity and achieve equality for LGBTI people and their families. There is no question that the Universal Declaration for Human Rights adopted 70 years ago serves as both foundation and inspiration for this global project and its work. From its preamble, we affirm the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Together we are building a world that is free and equal.

Our Champions: Kevin-Prince Boateng - YouTube

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What are the appropriate and ethical boundaries of religious liberty at a time when religious liberty is being used as an excuse or sanction for discrimination? Groups of Presbyterian leaders across the United States are raising this question and it resulted in a ruling made by the recent 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

We are grateful this ruling On Clarifying the Position of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Regarding Appropriate Boundaries of Religious Liberty was adopted by the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on June 23, 3018 in St. Louis, Missouri.

On Clarifying the Position of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Regarding Appropriate Boundaries of Religious Liberty


Presbyterian leaders across the US declared that the “misuse of “religious liberty” is costing lives and depriving individuals of basic human rights. The federal government and state legislatures are considering and passing legislation, and adopting administrative rules and regulations, under the guise of religious freedom, that in reality are nothing more (or less) than a targeted attempt to promote a singular religious viewpoint that does not believe LGBTQ individuals are entitled to the full scope of human rights to employment, healthcare, and parenting rights.”

This ruling calls for “all Presbyterians to distinguish between our historical understanding of our religious freedom to practice the essential tenets of our faith, and the misuse of the term religious freedom as a justification for discrimination.” May all persons of faith and good will take a closer look at this historic understanding and intention of religious liberty and not allow this historic principle to be used as a weapon to discriminate or hinder the protection of human rights. Together we can build a world that is free and equal.

Photograph: David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the couple at the center of the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

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Dr. Yvette Abrahams lives close to the earth, on an organic farm outside of Cape Town, South Africa and she cares deeply about the earth. As a LGBTI activist and an advocate for gender equality, climate change is her current ethical interest.

In nature, Abrahams reminds us that over 450 animal species exhibit homosexual behavior while only one is known to exhibit homophobia—the human species. In her article “Thank You for Making Me Stronger: Sexuality, Gender and Environmental Spirituality,” she locates species diversity in a pan-Africanist discourse which argues that the true cultural import is homophobia.

Thank You For Making Me Strong: Sexuality, Gender and Environmental Spirituality

We are grateful to share this new article by Abrahams from the special issue “Sexuality in Africa” of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This special issues was published in July, 2016 and had its world premiere at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Photo of Dr. Yvette Abrahams from FINDING AFRICA Interdisciplinary Postcolonial African Studies.

Banner photo features view of Table Mountain. There are 9,000 fynbos species found in the Cape and 2,000 types on Table Mountain alone – more plant species than in the entire United Kingdom.

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Few persons are as passionately committed to the human dignity, equality and human rights of sexual and gender minorities in Africa than Rev. Kapya Kaoma. As a Visiting Research at Boston University’s Center for Global Christianity in Mission and an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University in Zambia, Rev. Kaoma’s research and writing peel away the layers of colonialism, the influence of missionaries, imperialism and globalization to discover the indigenous expressions of gender and sexuality in Africa.

We are grateful to share this new article by Kaoma from the special issue “Sexuality in Africa” of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This special issue was published in July, 2016 and had its world premiere at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Unmasking the Colonial Silence: Sexuality in Africa in the Post­ Colonial Context

Kaoma’s article explores the silence associated with sexuality in Africa. Aside from examining the false premise that homosexuality is un-African and un-Christian, this article argues that sexuality in Africa was not only socially controlled, but also carried socio-ethical and sacred overtones. Against the belief that sexuality in Africa exists in silence, the article contends that in the traditional culture, sexuality was highly celebrated until missionaries attached shame to it—thus introducing the silence which is now defended as the default African position on human sexuality. The article concludes with some ethical considerations on sexuality in Africa.

Kaoma address critical questions of the day with regard to sexuality and gender in Africa today including lineage perpetuation, procreation, childlessness, intersex and the existence of African sexualities in the midst of globalized terminology about sexuality and gender. This article is posted on the Sexuality in Africa website. Posting of articles from the special issue “Sexuality in Africa” is done periodically. We commend Rev. Kaoma’s article to you, your education and your activism.

Photo: Arrest of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in 2010 for having a same-sex wedding ceremony in Malawi.

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Today is International Human Rights Day and a celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10. 1948.

The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that:
“The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The vision of this extraodinary declaration and those who envisoned the United Nations after two world wars that took millions of lives and left many countries devastated is of one human family.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a longtime, passionate advocate of universal human rights and the human dignity of all persons. From his deep faith Tutu calls us to remember that: “God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.”

LGBT people and our families are part of God’s good creation and we are part of God’s dream for us to be part of this one human family. LGBT people have the right to create families. The legal recognition of same-sex couples and families is part of living into the vision of the Universarl Declaration of Human Rights and the one human family as imagined by Desmond Tutu.

We are grateful that Australia became the newest country to adopt same-sex marriage on December 7, 2017. “My heart is beating out of my chest. This debate has been in my life ever since I knew I was gay,” said Hamish Taylor, age 22, as he left the gallery after Parliament’s vote.

Human rights and equality are not abstract ideas when it comes to the lives and experiences of people. For Hamish Taylor of Melbourne, Australia the promise of human rights and equality became real with the affirmative vote of his Parliament for marriage equality. Moreover, we are grateful that Hamish and all of the LGBT people of Australia are now equal citizens within our human family.

Photo: Australia votes to legalize same-sex marriage

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Fanny Ann Eddy was a courageous lesbian activist who lost her life in her pursuit of human dignity for LGBTI people and her vision for her beloved country of Sierra Leone to embrace all its children. Her amazing life and her senseless, brutal death provide the foreground for Dora King’s article, “Secrecy and the Poetics of Witness: Mourning Fanny Ann Eddy,” from Sexuality in Africa: July 2016 Special Issue, Journal of Theology for Southern Africa.

Secrecy and the Poetics of Witness: Mourning Fanny Ann Eddy

Dora King is a poet, singer, LGBTI activist, ethnographic researcher in public health and a doctoral student at Columbia University. Dora lived in Sierra Leone and Kenya before coming to the United States to study at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Her personal and research interests include gender, sexuality, literature, cinema, African culture and public health. As part of the African diaspora, she lives in New York City.

Kapya Kaoma says of Dora’s paper: “The lead essay by Dora King invites readers into the lived experiences of sexual minorities. King reflects poetically on the murder of an openly lesbian human rights advocate in her native country of Sierra Leone. While acknowledging the danger of existing in secrecy, King bemoans that ‘the secrecy that protects us can someday be the face of the impunity that murders us.’ This essay speaks to the wider issue of sexual politics—it is about people whose life-existence is constantly threatened by death.”

Fanny Ann Eddy, David Kato, Eric Lembembe, Maurice Mjomba and Eudy Simelane are all fallen sexual minorities on the African continent. Their names are known to us, and there are other names not known to us; and all of these LGBTI people should have been accepted and embraced by their families, faith communities and countries. They should have been protected by the religious and political leaders; rather than placed into harm’s way by religiously-sanctioned and politically-motivated homophobia and transphobia. Their lives and their deaths call us to keep doing this faith and justice work.

King closes her essay with inspiration from Adrienne Rich and Carolyn Forche: “And we will find the language that does not merely seek to expose the secret but to do justice with the truth.”

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