Catholic president of Burundi calls for LGBTQ+ people to be stoned

A church in Burundi, Africa

Religious dogma is fueling hateful, violence-inciting statements by leaders of several African nations that are jeopardizing the rights and well-being of LGBTQ-plus Africans.

Burundi President Évariste Ndayishimiye recently and brutally called on his citizens to stone gay people, claiming that homosexuality is imported from the West. In Burundi, consensual same-sex intimacy between adults is already eligible for up to two years in prison. Homosexuality has been criminalized in Burundi since 2009, and more than 30 African countries have criminalized same-sex relations.

Late last year, during an event with journalists and members of the public in East Burundi, Ndayishimiye shockingly said, “I think that if we find these kinds of people in Burundi, it is better to take them to a stadium and stone them… That’s what they deserve.”

It’s no mystery where a religious leader such as Ndayishimiye, who is Catholic, is getting his justification for such vicious violence-inciting statements. Leviticus 20:30 horrifically mandates: “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

Ndayishimiye emphasizes the role of god in his politics. Pope Francis even met with Ndayishimiye in March 2022, exchanging gifts with the president and discussing the social and political climate in Burundi.

Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries and routinely receives aid from entities such as the European Union, the United States, and the International Monetary Fund. Yet, during Friday’s event, Ndayishimiye disparaged Western aid that, he insinuated, was conditioned on Burundi’s acceptance of gay rights, telling his audience, “Let them keep their help, let them keep it.”

Ndayishimiye’s remarks are part of a growing pattern.

One of the most aggressive offenders, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which imposes a life sentence for those participating in same-sex relations and the death penalty for specific cases. The death penalty would be applied to those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” concerning those who have participated in homosexual acts and are infected with H.I.V. or other cases that are already crimes under Uganda’s law, such as  cases involving children or disabled people. The law is currently being challenged in Uganda’s Constitutional Court.

In Uganda, a predominantly Christian country, religious leaders have led the attack against the LGBTQ-plus community, claiming homosexuality is a Western import and urging legislators to take penalizing action against gay people. Museveni, an Anglican Christian, even holds an annual National Prayer Breakfast modeled after the U.S. breakfast on the anniversary of Uganda’s 1995 Constitution.

In Kenya, the president and lawmakers have recently criticized Kenya’s Supreme Court for allowing the registration of an LGBTQ+ association. One lawmaker went as far as to introduce legislation that would give members of the public the power to arrest anyone even suspected of being queer.

Kenyan President William Ruto is the country’s first evangelical Christian leader. Ruto overwhelmingly appealed to Christians in Kenya during his presidential campaign, which undoubtedly played a part in his electoral victory. Ruto has incessantly spoken out against LGBTQ-plus rights, saying in 2015 that, “Kenya is a republic that worships God. There is no room for homosexuality in Kenya.”

Further, Tanzania’s authorities recently claimed they would prosecute anyone sharing LGBTQ-plus content online, police in Zambia arrested activists accused of promoting homosexuality, and a bill was introduced in Ghana to criminalize identifying as LGBTQ-plus and shutting down attempts to protect sexual and gender minority rights. Tanzania swore in its first Muslim president in 2021, and both Zambia and Ghana have devout Christian presidents.

While many of these leaders claim homosexuality and tolerance of homosexuality are a Western import, LGBTQ-plus criminalization laws in African countries are actually based on British colonial law. Researchers have found that former British colonies are significantly more likely to criminalize same-sex relations than former colonies of other Western powers.

Further evidence is the acceptance of homosexuality in various pre-colonial African cultures. These anti-LGBTQ-plus+ laws are now operating as vestiges of white European colonialism, which of course included widespread missionizing and the imposition of the Christian religion upon many Africans. It is unconscionable that tax-exempt U.S. ministries continue this missionizing and are considered largely responsible for inciting anti-queer legislation and hate.

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