In commemoration of the memory of the victims, the General Assembly, in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually. The resolution called for the establishment of an outreach programme to mobilize educational institutions, civil society and other organizations to inculcate in future generations the “causes, consequences and lessons of the Transatlantic slave trade, and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice”.
By studying slavery, we help to guard against humanity’s most vile impulses. By examining the prevailing assumptions and beliefs that allowed the practice to flourish, we raise awareness about the continued dangers of racism and hatred. And by honouring slavery’s victims — as we do with this International Day, with a permanent memorial that will be established at the UN Headquarters complex in New York, and with the observance of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent — we restore some measure of dignity to those who had been so mercilessly stripped of it.
The letter was signed by Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia, Chris Smith of New Jersey, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Trent Franks of Arizona and Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana.
They call the gay genocide legislation antithetical to the Christian belief in the “inherent dignity and worth” of all human beings, and there are reports that he agrees and has assured U.S. officials that he will block the bill.
Mark Silk covers the Ugandan anti-homosexuality act.
Richard Land’s passion for foreign policy should not be confined to his current call for trade sanctions against Iran. Nothing should stop Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, from joining fellow Southern Baptist evangelical Rick Warren and a long list of other Christian leaders in opposing Uganda’s gay genocide legislation.
Buried in an interview with the London Telegraph is Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ first public declaration of opposition to the Ugandan gay genocide legislation. His wording implied that all members of the Anglican Communion, obviously including those in Uganda, should oppose the legislation. He stopped just short of calling out Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi.
The Telegraph’s George Pitcher wrote [emphasis ours]:
“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.
Williams’ hand was apparently forced by the dramatically announced opposition of similarly reluctant Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren (Williams interview is dated Dec. 11, shortly after Warren’s statement), and a parade of other religious leader opposition, including the implicit opposition of the Vatican. Ekklesia reported that several British Christian organizations had also expressed opposition, “including Accepting Evangelicals, Changing Attitude, Courage, Ekklesia, Fulcrum and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.”
Williams became a focus of criticism when he remained silent on Uganda yet issued a sharp, immediate rebuke to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles for on Dec. 5 choosing as bishop the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, a lesbian who has been in a partnered relationship for two decades.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori took a stand against “the pending Ugandan legislation that would introduce the death penalty for people who violate portions of that country’s anti-homosexuality laws,” in effective contrast with Williams’ silence.
The effect of growing international pressure on the legislation is still unclear. It is part of an Africa-wide slide toward repression of homosexuals, the Guardian reported today (12/13) [emphasis ours]:
There is wide support for [Ndorwa West, Uganda, MP David] Bahati’s [anti-homosexuality] law which, while being an extreme piece of anti-gay legislation, is not unique. As far as gay rights are concerned, it would appear that much of Africa is going backwards. Nigeria has a similar bill waiting to reach its statute books and already allows the death penalty for homosexuality in northern states, as does Sudan. Burundi criminalised homosexuality in April this year, joining 37 other African nations where gay sex is already illegal. Egypt and Mali are creeping towards criminalization, using morality laws against same-sex couples.
. . .
He [Bahati] denied reports that international pressure might result in parts of the bill being toned down. “We are not going to yield to any international pressure – we cannot allow people to play with the future of our children and put aid into the game. We are not in the trade of values. We need mutual respect.”
Somewhat factually challenged Rick Warren tweeted and reiterated the allegation that last year 146,000 Christians were put to death because of their faith. No one, except Christians, said anything.”
Unless you count Amnesty International (not a Christian organization) and Human Rights Watch — and others.
The number 146,000 is almost as startling as Warren’s willingness to encourage, without just cause, self-isolating Christian self-pity. In the lengthy process of attempting to find a valid source for Warren’s claim, we learned that 146,000 is a number which turns up frequently. Almost as if it were a magic number:
- The number of Nigerians killed in road accidents in 2007.
- An apparently commonplace wrong answer to the question: How many people die per day, worldwide?.
- A number of deaths in Burma (Myanmar) associated with cyclone Nargis in May of 2008 when the Suu Kyi regime refused to allow the delivery of aid.
- The number of women who were expected to die of causes related to smoking in 1991, according to the Washington Post.
- A controversial top-end number of deaths in Darfur cited in an April of 2005 speech by then Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick.
- Not a number unearthed by a search of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven online magazine produced no results. Not even when narrowed to just the number 146,000.
Dismissive assertions using dramatic, undocumented numbers — like Warren’s 146,000 tweet — tend to progressively discredit the source. It’s inevitable. Unless the source comes back with persuasive proof of his/her claims, they are demonstrations of untrustworthiness.
Thursday without actually mentioning Uganda. the Vatican voiced to a United Nations panel on sexual orientation and gender identity its opposition to “all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
LBGT bloggers (1, 2) saw the statement as tacit opposition to Uganda’s gay genocide legislation, although the statement was explicitly a reiteration of a Vatican position taken last year. It also echoed the Vatican’s March position condemning violence against homosexuals without supporting the proposed U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, recognizing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as new categories that need human rights protections.
Scott Long of Human Rights Watch reported that the statement Thursday “stunned” many in attendance and was in part the result of a lobbying effort:
Among the many people who contributed to this truly historic result, in which the Catholic Church affirmed a tradition of peace and charity, I particularly thank Boris Dittrich, who lobbied the Holy See for almost a year to declare this position.
Long also said in an email:
One of the panelists proposed that Rev. Rick Warren, instead of issuing statements from California that rights abuses are bad, needs to go to Uganda-he’s preached there before-and tell Ugandans that he opposes jailing LGBT people.
The Reverend Philip J. Bené, J.C.D., legal attaché to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, said [emphasis mine]
Thank you for convening this panel discussion and for providing the opportunity to hear some very serious concerns raised this afternoon. My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than a question.
As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.
As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.
Thank you, Mr. Moderator.
Atheist Paul Zachary “PZ” Myers saw in Blasphemy Day International 2009 the opportunity to live his unfaith and make a point, while Al Mohler saw the opportunity to live his faith and make some converts.
The Blasphemy Day Facebook page says:
The UN, rather than standing up for free speech, has given in to pressure from Islamic nations and has proposed a resolution to essentially ban criticism of religion. In its pursuit of “tolerance” for religion, this resolution wants to strip everyone, everywhere, of their freedom, even their obligation, to criticize what they oppose. Unlike one’s political affiliation or favorite sports team, religion demands – and has been granted – unique immunity from criticism since its very inception. Labeling anything deemed critical “blasphemy”, religions have effectively defined the boundaries for what can and can’t be said about them. We propose we knock down this barrier and break this spell.
As Mohler wrote in his April 17 blog:
This United Nations Human Rights Council resolution offends Peter Singer, and it offends me as well. The United Nations has no right protect adherents of any religious belief system from being offended. It should expend its energies defending the religious liberty of all persons everywhere. That policy would put the offense where it belongs.
Defaming Islam is rude and insensitive and is a faux paux for which many Southern Baptists are guilty, but it certainly should not be criminalized.
At their best, both Christianity and Islam recognize that open inquiry permitting honest critique is central to the search for truth.
If there is any blasphemy here on Sept. 30, it will be accidental and we expect you to hold us to account for it, but opposition to U.N. Resolution 62/154 is just.