Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda spoke at the UN on Friday in a panel on HIV/AIDS. Excellent points that will hopefully make a dent in the global debate - particularly in Africa.
First, we must move aggressively to decriminalize homosexuality.
The criminalization of homosexuality remains the most significant barrier that needs to be dismantled to reduce the spread of AIDS. We need to make our laws and agreements more binding. We need to ask if our laws or beliefs help or prevent the spread of HIV and hinder or support families caring for loved ones. Over 80 countries still criminalize homosexuality and see it as a crime against God and nature. Denying people their humanity puts us all at risk because AIDS spreads fast in the darkness of ignorance.
Second, we must ask everyone to take on the responsibility to respect human rights.
Our lawmakers must create a safe space for conversations where we can share one another’s truths. Every person in this assembly should think about how their personal or institutional beliefs deny or support human rights.
Third, we leaders in the faith community must teach one another to listen and to live with differences.
We must work hard to not to impose our religious values on the whole society. It begins as simply as couple counseling before marriage and, on a larger scale, to respect human rights and avoid scapegoating a vulnerable minority.
In conclusion, let us take the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu to heart: “The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.”