Christian UN staff in Kenya refuse aid to gay men fleeing persecution

It’s hard enough being gay in a country where the government wants to put you in prison, and will look the other way while a vigilante mob attacks you, simply because of who you love. What are you supposed to do when the United Nations — an organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights — won’t help you when you run from that kind of persecution, and for the same reason?

From the BBC:

Anti-homophobia protest in Uganda, via Creative Commons

Anti-homophobia protest in Uganda, via Creative Commons

His country made international headlines in recent years when it tried to introduce a tough new anti-homosexuality law, which allowed life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”.

Although the courts struck it down, the environment has proved too dangerous for a growing number of Ugandans.

But in Kenya they face constant attacks, kidnappings, extortion and police harassment.

Recently, almost a dozen LGBT people were taken by the United Nation’s refugee agency (UNHCR) to a safe house in Nairobi, after they were attacked on a night out.

Even that agency – the very group tasked with protected LGBT people – has admitted its own staff are hostile.

The deputy head of protection for UNHCR told me that staff have said that as Christians they could not work with, or talk to, a gay man.

“It’s difficult for people to go beyond all the prejudices they have. And this is what we faced with our own colleagues,” Catherine Hamon explained.

Discrimination from UNHCR staff has also led to delays in determining refugee status for gay Ugandans who have fled to Kenya seeking asylum.

The next time someone tells you about all the great humanitarian work religious organizations — particularly Christian organizations — do, remember this story. Every year, thousands of Christians stream into Africa; many are called to make the continent a better place, but all are called to make the continent a more Christian place. And when the West’s involvement in the continent is so heavily skewed toward the religious that aid workers employed by the United Nations feel comfortable saying that persecution and violence are bad, but being gay is worse, it’s time to seriously reconsider just how great the mission is.

(h/t Religion Dispatches)

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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