News / Africa

Anti-Gay Sentiment Flares in Ethiopia as Addis Ababa Preps for AIDS Conference

Ethiopian orphans Endashew (R) and his sister Yeshiwork, who lost both their parents to HIV/AIDS, sit outside their family house near the capital Addis Ababa, June 2005. (file photo)
Ethiopian orphans Endashew (R) and his sister Yeshiwork, who lost both their parents to HIV/AIDS, sit outside their family house near the capital Addis Ababa, June 2005. (file photo)

Ethiopia's religious leaders have abruptly canceled a news conference called to denounce a planned meeting of gay rights activists on the fringes of an international meeting on AIDS. Ethiopia's attitude toward homosexuality is shaping up as a potential flash point as some of the world's leading experts gather to discuss trends in AIDS treatment and prevention.

The leaders of Ethiopia's main religious denominations faced journalists briefly in an Addis Ababa conference room Tuesday. Abune Paulos, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was there, along with representatives of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, the Roman Catholic Church, and Protestant denominations.

But before anything could be said, Ethiopia's Health Minister Tewodros Adhanom arrived and asked for a word with the religious leaders in private.

Abrupt postponement

After nearly an hour, the leaders left without comment. The Reverend Iteffa Gobena Molte, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Council Mekane Yesus told reporters the event would be rescheduled.

"It's postponed to another time. And when they are ready they will call upon you to come and record them," said Iteffa.

Reporters initially were told the news conference had been called to condemn a planned conference on "men who have sex with men."  

The website of a group called the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, or AMSHER, says the meeting is to be held Saturday at an Addis Ababa hotel. A list of speakers posted on the website include Michel Sidibe, director of UNAIDS, and Eric Goosby, the United States Global AIDS Coordinator.

Fighting AIDS

That gathering was to coincide with the 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, which opens Sunday in the Ethiopian capital. More than 8,000 experts and activists are expected to attend, and former U.S. President George W. Bush is slated to be an honored guest.

The sudden cancelation of the news briefing underscores Ethiopia's strong anti-gay sentiment. At a 2008 meeting with reporters, many of the same religious leaders urged passage of a constitutional amendment banning homosexuality.

News reports at the time quoted the clergy as calling homosexuality “the pinnacle of immorality.” Ethiopian Orthodox leader Paulos was quoted as condemning gay sex, saying, “for people to act in this manner, they have to be stupid, like animals."

Condemnation of gay sex

Reverend Iteffa said Ethiopian Protestants believe homosexuality is unnatural.

"The Protestant church teaches about homosexuality that it is not God's creation. God had created man and woman. So that is the proper creation and it continues to be there, and the Bible explicitly says in many parts of the Bible, so we claim that to be our faith as a Protestant," he said.

A statement distributed to reporters at Tuesday's canceled news conference quoted a survey showing 97 percent of Ethiopians consider gay behavior immoral. It said scheduling a conference on homosexuality in Addis Ababa shows a disregard for Ethiopia's laws and morals.

An email asking for AMSHER's response was not immediately answered.

An official standing outside Tuesday's news conference site suggested that the intervention of the Health Ministry, a major backer of the AIDS conference, indicates that the AMSHER meeting might not take place. A call to the hotel being advertised as the meeting site showed no facilities are currently reserved in AMSHER's name.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid