Anti-gay leaders in Ethiopia recently came together to condemn LGBTQ rights. According to Gaystar News, an anti-LGBTQ conference entitled "Homosexuality and Its Associated Social Disastrous Consequences" took place in African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on June 9th. Gaystar News states that the conference was organized by Seyoum Antonious, president of United for Life, a conservative Christian organization.
The June 9th conference reportedly drew over 2,000 attendees, including Ethiopian government officials, religious leaders, and youth organization representatives. Ezega reports that several prominent religious leaders were in attendance, including Vice President of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Council vice president Azam Yussuf, Ethiopian Evangelical Church president Qes Wakeseyoum Edossa, and Sileshi Kebede, Special Assistant to the General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Churches Fellowship.
According to Gaystar News, Patriarch Abune Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church associated homosexuality with foreign influences, saying "Ethiopians do not need their identity to be dictated for them from outside no matter how wealthy or powerful the forces applying the pressure were." Paulos also read a statement by Ethiopian religious leaders lambasting homosexuality and urging international voices to stop undermining Ethiopian culture. The statement referred to homosexuality as an "infestation" and encouraged the Ethiopian government to punish people engaging in "sodomite activities."
According to Pink News, the conference also included a talk by a young Ethiopian man who alleged that he was "infected with the homosexual disease" when he was sexually abused at the age of six. The man now insists that he has been "cured" of his homosexuality.
This conference is not the first time anti-gay Ethiopian voices have condemned LGBTQ rights. During a gathering in Addis Ababa in December 2008, Ethiopian religious leaders encouraged the Ethiopian government to ban homosexuality in the country's constitution. Reuters reports that Patriarch Abune Paulos called gays "dumb, stupid like animals." Voice of America reports that Paulos and other religious leaders demanded the cancellation of an HIV conference sponsored by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHER) in 2011.
This kind of rhetoric is all too familiar to LGBTQ rights supporters in the West. Homosexuality is demonized as an infection threatening society, a product and cause of sexual abuse, and as a pathology that can supposedly be "cured." The humanity of LGBTQ persons was quickly obscured by homophobic rhetoric. The conservative Christian presence at the anti-gay event is all too familiar to Westerners as well. The Addis Ababa conference serves as yet another reminder that religion-inspired homophobia is a dangerous force worldwide.