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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid