The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference demanded that the African nation’s government take action to shut down an LGBTQ community center in Accra, Ghana’s capital. The center has now been closed following a raid by national security forces.
In a lengthy statement, posted by Graphic Online, the bishops expressed support for the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, an anti-gay group in Ghana, saying:
“We, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, write to condemn all those who support the practice of homosexuality in Ghana. We also write to support the position of Lawyer Moses Foh-Amoaning and the Coalition who for years has been championing the crusade against homosexuality. We also commend other individuals who have spoken in condemnation of this practice. We do this because the Roman Catholic Church is opposed to this abominable practice.”
Following a discussion of the Bible and church teaching on homosexuality, the bishops stated that “it is not right to subject homosexuals to any form of harassment simply because they are homosexuals. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law. Homosexuals must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
The bishops closed by calling for continued criminalization of homosexuality and expressing nationalist sentiments, saying:
“In the light of the foregoing, we call upon the President of the Republic and Parliament to state unambiguously their position on the matter of homosexuality and its practice in Ghana. We also call on the Government of Ghana to close down the LGBTQI office space that was recently opened in Accra. Finally, we also urge the Executive and the Legislature never to be cowed down or to succumb to the pressure to legalize the rights of LGBTQIs [sic] in Ghana.
“God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong!”
The community center, LGBT+ Rights Ghana, was closed soon after it had opened, when the raid left founder Alex Kofi Donkor afraid for his safety, CNN reported.
The Coalition was one of the strongest opponents to the center. The “family values” group “has been a strong advocate against the LGBTQI movement in Ghana since its inauguration in December 2013,” Joy Online reported.
Made up of “an amalgamation of Christian and Para-Christian bodies, Muslims, Non-Religious entities, Traditional rulers and opinion leaders in Ghana,” the group’s stated goal is “ensuring the preservation of indigenous African traditional and cultural sexual rights and family values.”
The Coalition strongly advocated for the closure of the office, saying that “the alleged existence of the office was illegal and an affront to the laws, traditions and customs of the country and must be shut down.”
The embattled center, which the European Union had supported, attracted additional support after closing down. A group of 67 celebrities and other influential figures of Ghanaian heritage, including Idris Elba and Naomi Campbell, released a letter supporting the center, said Pink News. Their letter said:
“‘We have watched with profound concern as you have had to question the safety of your vital work at the LGBT+ Rights Ghana Centre in Accra, and feared for your personal wellbeing and security.'”
Black Lives Matter UK also released a statement supporting the center, calling its opening “a historic and beautiful moment of hope,” and saying, “The aggressive reaction from police, Catholic bishops and high levels of government was shocking. We did not expect to see armed police supervising the closure of your offices in less than one month of opening.”
Because homosexuality in Ghana became a crime only after European colonization, it is important to recognize the intense homophobia that currently exists is a product of colonization and has been enabled by the church. Not to recognize this reality is to fail to address the deep issues at play.
Liberation also cannot happen when the church contributes to state violence.
The Ghanian bishops’ boilerplate comments about “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” echo similar statements from other bishops’ conferences. But these Ghanian bishops fail to recognize that their other statements contributed to the widespread opposition that led the state to raid the center. It is impossible to truly advocate for people to be treated with “human dignity” and also say that they should be imprisoned for having sex.
Donkor remained hopeful following the police raid, writing: “We will triumph. The police may have raided our office and closed it down but the real office is in our hearts, and minds.”
Tomorrow’s post on Bondings 2.0 will feature an international campaign calling on the Vatican to intervene in Ghana on behalf of LGBTQ people.
—Mac Svolos, New Ways Ministry, March 10, 2021