Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . For decades beginning during the Cold War, U.S. policy in the Islamic world has been aimed at suppressing secular reformist and leftist movements. Beginning with the CIA-engineered coup against a secular democratic reform government in Iran in 1953 (it was about oil), Washington has propped up dictators, coaching these regimes in the black arts of torture and mayhem against secular liberals and the left.

In these dictatorships, often the only places where people had freedom to meet and organize were mosques – and out of these mosques sometimes grew extreme Islamist movements. The Shah's torture state in Iran was brilliant at cleansing and murdering the left – a process that ultimately helped the rise of the Khomeini movement and ultimately Iran's Islamic Republic.

Growing out of what Martin Luther King called Washington's "irrational, obsessive anti-communism," U.S. foreign policy also backed extreme Islamists over secular movements or governments that were either Soviet-allied or feared to be.

In Afghanistan, beginning before the Soviet invasion and evolving into the biggest CIA covert operation of the 1980s, the U.S. armed and trained native mujahedeen fighters – some of whom went on to form the Taliban. To aid the mujahedeen, the U.S. recruited and brought to Afghanistan religious fanatics from the Arab world – some of whom went on to form Al Qaeda. (Like these Washington geniuses, Israeli intelligence – in a divide-and-conquer scheme aimed at combating secular leftist Palestinians – covertly funded Islamist militants in the occupied territories who we now know as Hamas.)

This is hardly obscure history.

Except in U.S. mainstream media. . . .

– Jeff Cohen
"Fear Extremists in the Arab World? Blame Washington"
Common Dreams
January 29, 2011

Recommended Off-site Links:
Live from the Egyptian Revolution – Sharif Abdel Kouddous (Democracy Now!, January 29, 2011).
Egypt: Death Throes of a Dictatorship – Robert Fisk (The Independent, January 30, 2011).
Smashing Through Fear in Egypt – Mona Eltahawy (The Toronto Star, January 29, 2011).
On the Wrong Side of History in the Middle East – Adil E. Shamoo (Common Dreams, January 31, 2011).
Why Washington Clings to a Failed Middle East Strategy – Gareth Porter (Common Dreams, January 31, 2011).
Egypt: A Complete Guide to the 2011 Revolution – Craig Kanalley (The Huffington Post, January 30 – present).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In Uganda, a “Fearless Voice” for Gay Rights is Brutally Silenced


David Kato Kisulle

New Internationalist reporter Joselyn Edwards observed last April that, as a gay man living in Uganda, human rights activist David Kato faced “innumerable forms of harassment” – including arrest and beatings by police. As with all sexual minorities in the deeply homophobic African country of Uganda, Kato’s future, wrote Edwards, was “unfathomable.”

Here’s how Edwards described Kato and his work when she met him last year.

Kato is one of the activists leading the fight against the [Ugandan anti-gay] law condemned most recently by President Obama as odious and unjust. International pressure since the bill was tabled last October resulted in Uganda backing away from the law’s most draconian provision: the execution of some gays. However, it remains to be seen if the backlash will moderate it any further. Even without the death sentence, the bill still calls for life imprisonment for those who commit ‘the offence of homosexuality’ and goes so far as to criminalize a simple touch as an ‘attempt to commit’ homosexuality.

Kato, a spokesperson for Sexual Minorities Uganda, was one of the plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication of the same name). Box Turtle Bulletin reports that Kato was one of three plaintiffs (or applicants) “who had been named by the tabloid under a headline tagged “Hang Them!” His photo appeared on the tabloid’s front cover.”

It’s now being reported that David Kato was murdered today in his home in Kampala. Sadly, given all we know about the situation in Uganda, Kato’s death is not completely unfathomable.

The details remain sketchy, but Human Rights Watch is reporting the following.

Witnesses told police that a man entered Kato’s home at around 1 p.m. on January 26, 2011, hit him twice in the head and departed in a vehicle. Kato died on his way to Kawolo hospital. Police told Kato’s lawyer that they had the registration number of the vehicle and were looking for it.

Human Rights Watch is also calling on the Ugandan government to “urgently and impartially investigate [Kato’s] killing.”

I find the news of Kato’s murder very sad – and a grim reminder of just how difficult and dangerous it is for many people around the world to live openly as LGBT. I can easily forget that as I go about my life as an openly gay person in the U.S. and Australia.

Yet while I’m horrified by Kato’s brutal murder, I’m also inspired by his courageous, Christ-like life. I have no idea if David Kato identified as Christian. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that in his life – in his efforts to help others and to move humanity forward in its thinking and treatment of people viewed by society as “less than,” as “the other,” Kato was following in the footsteps of many great people – Jesus of Nazareth among them.

I resonate with Bishop John Shelby Spong’s understanding of how the historical Jesus serves as an icon of faith. Writes Spong:

I see the primary Jesus experience as being that of a boundary breaker. His humanity and his consciousness seem to me to be so whole and so expanded that he was able to escape the basic human drive of survival that binds so many of us who are less fully developed. Unlike us, he appeared to need no security barrier behind which to hide. He could thus step across the boundaries of tribe, prejudice, guilt, and even religion into a new dimension of what it means to be human, and this is what caused people to experience God present in him. His call to us is therefore not to be religious but to be human and to be whole.

Such a call and such “boundary breaking” activity does not sit well with those fearful of growth and change. Such people ensured Jesus was killed for the radical message of inclusion he lived and taught. Similarly, David Kato’s murder, it would seem, has been at the hands of those fearful of his message of compassion and justice for all – including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population of Uganda.

David Kato, I believe, is now enveloped in the all-loving and transforming presence of the sacred. He is with God. Within my own life and sphere of influence I want to do what I can to ensure that his life of courage and sacrifice was not in vain.

Accordingly, I recommit myself to working for the full inclusion, dignity, and safety of LGBT persons in the profoundly homophobic Roman Catholic Church.

I recommit to speaking out against and working with others to reform the dysfunctional and harmful attitudes, practices, and teachings of the church’s clerical caste as they relate to homosexuality.

I recommit myself to living and working with others in modeling an authentically catholic way of being church; of being a community of spiritual seekers inspired by the life and message of Jesus. It’s a universal message, one that is truly good news of liberation for all who are oppressed by attitudes, rhetoric and structures that exclude, that deny God’s gift of human life in all its wondrous diversity.

On a practical level, I’m going to start making a modest monthly contribution to Human Rights Watch. I can’t afford to give much, but it will be something.

In all these efforts – these pro-active, hope-filled efforts – I’ll seek inspiration and encouragement from the example of people like David Kato; people who courageously open themselves to that same transforming and “boundary breaking” spirit of love that Jesus so completely embodied.

Yes, a “fearless voice” in Uganda has been tragically and brutally silenced. But the voice of justice and compassion lives on – potentially in each one of us. Let’s do what we can – in our own special and unique ways – to keep that voice alive, whenever and wherever we can.

Updates and Recommended Off-site Links:
Brutal Killing of Uganda Gay Human Rights Defender – Sexual Minorities Uganda (January 26, 2011).
Gay Hero Murdered in Uganda – It's Time for the U.S. to Act – Emma Ruby-Sachs (The Huffington Post, January 27, 2011).
Uganda Gay Activist Slain After Photo Published – Max Delany and Godfrey Olukya (Associated Press, January 27, 2011).
Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Murdered, U.S. Evangelists Must Take Responsibility – Candace Chellew-Hodge (Religion Dispatches, January 27, 2011).
Background: Evidence of Scott Lively’s Complicity In The Murder Of David Kato Joe. My. God. (January 27, 2011).
David Kato’s Funeral Marred by Commotion – Max Delany (The Huffington Post, January 28, 2011).
Is Murdered Gay Activist David Kato the Gabrielle Giffords of Uganda? – David Gibson (Politics Daily, January 29, 2011).
Slouching Toward Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate – Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, February 2009 - present).
LGBT Rights by Country or Territory

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
The Scourge of Homophobia in Economically Impoverished Countries
A Prayer for International Day Against Homophobia
To Be Gay in Iraq
The Vatican’s Actions at the UN: “Sickening, Depraved and Shameless”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Yaegl Country

During my last days in Maclean, when the town was no longer totally besieged by flood waters, I spent time with my friends Raph, Bernie and Mim in Yaegl country.

Yaegl is the Goorie (Aboriginal) name for the area around the little coastal town of Brooms Head.

Above: Mim (front), Bernie and Raph at Brooms Head – Saturday, January 15, 2011.

Setting off to explore Yaegl country, Bernie and Mim opted to take the path that runs along the top of the headland before descending to a sandy beach. Raph and I, with our history of roving, chose to follow a creek bed down a rather steep incline to a small rocky beach. From here we followed the coastline along the base of the headland to the main beach.

Above: Raph finds a coconut!

Above: Both Raph and I are avid photographers! Indeed, capturing
interesting shots
is one of the main reasons we go roving!

Above: A great shot by Raph!

Above and below: Washed out and washed up! That was the fate of this hay bale that must have been washed out to sea by the recent flooding further inland, and then washed up on the beach at Brooms Head.

Above: Raph's photo of me and the hay bale.

Above: Mim.

Above: Beautiful Yaegl country.

Above: Another great shot by Raphie!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Maclean, an End to the "Siege"
A Day Roving the Mid North Coast

Photography: Michael Bayly and Raph M.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . [H]ere's why I call [Archbishop Timothy Dolan's recent] attempt to link opposition to gay rights to issues of life unwise: it backs the bishops into a dangerous corner where their lack of any profound respect for the real lives of real gay and lesbian human beings and the families these human beings are raising or to which they belong matters. And where this lack of respect for the real lives of some real human beings seriously undercuts their claim to cherish life.

When you treat the real lives of real human beings as if they don't count, you provide the world a message – one louder than words – about what you really mean, when you talk about respecting life. That message calls into question your claim to stand consistently and unambiguously for the value of life.

By linking gay rights to right-to-life concerns, the bishops make their own lived witness to the gospels a serious issue. They make their own lived witness to the value of life the most important aspect of their teaching about the value of life. They put the spotlight on themselves, on their treatment of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

And if what we see when the spotlight shines on them in this area of their behavior is not admirable and consistent with what they proclaim about the dignity of persons and value of life, if we see callous disregard for the value of the lives of gay and lesbian human beings, then it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that their commitment to the value of life means much of anything at all. . . .

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
A Message for NON (and the Catholic Hierarchy)

Recommended DVD Resource:
Why You Can Be Catholic and Support Gay Marriage – A talk by Catholic theologian Daniel Maguire (Minneapolis, October 2010).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Bushland Wedding

As I mentioned previously, I recently attended the wedding of my friends Jeremiah and Kristy in the coastal town of Kingscliff, New South Wales.

I have to say that it was one of the most beautiful and inspiring weddings I've ever attended. Everything from the bushland setting to the vows that Jeremiah and Kristy declared to one another was memorable – and often quite moving.

I was honored to be asked to select and recite a reading as part of the wedding ceremony. I share today this reading along with images of Jeremiah and Kristy's beautiful bushland wedding – beginning below with a few pictures of where we stayed while in Kingscliff and of when I helped Jeremiah and his brothers, Raph and Ig, prepare the area of bushland where the ceremony took place.

Above: Ig checks out the view of Santai Resort where we and many of the other wedding guests stayed.

Above: Along with Ig, my "roommates" at the resort included Ig's brother Raph, the boys' father Mike, and Mike's brother Bartley.

Above: Raph with his sisters Tess and Dom, and Tess' husband Victor.

Above and below: The morning of the wedding saw Jeremiah, Raph, Ig and I up bright and early preparing the area of bushland in which the ceremony would take place. The guy mowing the grass was a complete stranger who, when out walking with his wife, asked us what we were up to and then returned half-an-hour later with his mower!

Above and below: Making sure folks know where to go!

Above: Raph, back at the resort and getting ready for his brother's wedding.

Above: Kristy and her brother arrive at the ceremony.

Above and below: Not even a brief shower of rain could spoil the special beauty of the day. Indeed, it seemed to add to it!

The Art of a Good Marriage

By Wilferd Arlan Peterson

A good marriage must be created.

In marriage the little things are the big things . . .

It is never being too old to hold hands,

It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day,

It is never going to sleep angry,

It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives,

It is standing together and facing the world,

It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family,

It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways,

It is having the capacity to forgive and forget,

It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow,

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful,

It is not only marrying the right person, it is being the right partner.

Above: The lovely couple at their wedding reception at Fins Restaurant, Kingscliff.

Above (from left): Mim, Collette, Dom, Mike, Bernie, Bartley, Raph and Ig.

Above: Jeremiah and Garth.

Above: The mother of the groom shares a few words.

Above: Iggy and Raph.

Left: With the happy couple on the day after their wedding. Later that afternoon I returned to Jeremiah's parents' place in Maclean with Mike, Bernie, Bartley, Raph, Ig and Mim. A few days later the Clarence River flooded, stranding us in the town for almost a week. For images and commentary of our time "under siege," see the series of Wild Reed posts that start here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sharing a Good Thing
Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast (January 2010)
Newtown (December 2008)
Travelin' South (August 2006)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.