Monday, August 10, 2009

Voices of Witness Africa

A dear friend brought me a gift from General Convention: a copy of the DVD Voices of Witness: Africa. It’s not quite a documentary. It is a simple, unvarnished compilation of testimonies, words, and stories from LGBT people living in Africa and a couple of retired African bishops. No narrator seeks to interpret or contextualize the stories. There is no narration. There are simply the faces and words of these people living in Africa – some of whom would face death or imprisonment if their stories were known.

The video is divided into five sections. The sections show LGBT Africans answering these questions:
  1. When did you become aware of your sexuality?
  2. Who did you talk to about your discovery of your sexuality?
  3. What is your relationship with God?
  4. What are your dreams?
  5. What do you want to say to the Church?
I watched this video with my friends this weekend. I thought it would be interesting to see the video that Katie Sherrod, Cynthia Black, and others had produced under the auspices of Integrity and Claiming the Blessing.

The video is much more powerful than I anticipated. I thank the producers and all who contributed to the creation of the video.

Here is one thing that I found chilling: Most of the people speak in their own voices, bravely and on camera. We see them and hear them. But there are also a large number of people whose faces are “blacked out,” the way we see secret informants in the U.S. These are Anglican Christians who dare not show their faces, for fear of the repercussions. The sheer number of them was chilling.

I quickly recalled that Anglican “clerics” like Akinola and Kolini are colluding with their governments to kill or imprison LGBT people. How anyone can consider these men “holy” or even “Christian” befuddles me now more than ever.

I did not expect to be moved so powerfully and feel such resonance with the stories these people told. As they answered the questions, “What is your relationship with God?” and “What do you want to say to the Church?,” I did not expect to find tears quietly flowing down my face. Their stories mirrored my own: I love God. I have been changed by God and by my life in the Church. And yet I find myself frustrated at the Church’s half-baked support of me and other LGBTs. I do not face the trials these Africans face; some of them live in countries where being – or being thought to be – gay can result in imprisonment or death. I don’t have that burden. But I related to their joys, their love of Jesus, their dreams for the church and society.

Here is a comment of one of the lesbians from Uganda:
    My relationship with God, I would say is fine. My relationship with Christians – that’s where I have a problem with because they are using the Bible, they are using God’s name to discriminate us.
    This is an important video and a marvelous gift to the Church. At a time when some churchmen like Abp Akinola say there are no gay men or lesbians in his church, at a time when people like Akinola and Kolini are working with their governments to make homosexuality a criminal act punishable by death or imprisonment, Claiming the Blessing gives voice to several LGBTs who love God, love Jesus, and yearn for a place in the Church.

    Do you hear this, Rowan Williams, Chief Pastor of the Anglican Communion?? Can you hear the voices of sheep within the Anglican fold who are desperate for a word of hope, of leadership, of tenderness?? Beaten down by the hate-filled Anglican clerics in Africa, these people still profess their love of Jesus, and they dream of a church that will welcome them, support them, and help them to grow. Of course, that’s not just an African dream. It’s the same dream I dream in the U.S. I suspect it’s the dream that LGBT Christians all over the world are dreaming. TEC took a couple of tiny steps last month in Anaheim. But it needs to spread over the whole world. LGBTs the world over are yearning to hear the welcome words from the Church: “Come home.”

    I would wish everyone would see this video. Unfortunately, if you go to the VOWA website, you can only view a trailer, download the study guide, and make a donation. [I have made my donation.] The site doesn’t yet afford a way to obtain the video. I know it is showing here and there around the Episcopal Church, but I hope Integrity and Claiming the Blessing will soon make the video available for sale via mail or download.

    Well done, Claiming the Blessing and Integrity!

    1 Comments:

    Blogger C said...

    Hi Lisa,
    Thank you for you kind words about Voices of Witness Africa. When we were making it we were often overwhelmed by the courage shown by our LGBT brothers and sisters in Africa. What Desmond Tutu says about the film on the cover of the DVD is the absolute truth-- "a brave tribute to a God of love"-- we cried many times (and still do) when we encountered their bravery and hope.
    When 8 LGBT folks met with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Anaheim, Louie Crew chose to use his private time with Rowan (I believe each person had 90 seconds) to personally hand him a copy of the film. Louie said later that he felt that Rowan would watch it.
    We're just finishing up the new website (www.voicesofwitness.org) and will be able to take orders for copies of the DVD (they will be sold/shipped at cost-- $10 in the US) in a few weeks. If your readers can't wait, they can email voicesofwitnessafrica@gmail.com, and we'll do our best to get them the DVD.
    Yours in Christ,
    Cynthia Black
    Katie Sherrod
    Producers, Voices of Witness Africa

    8/11/2009 9:46 AM  

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