A Dream Beyond Borders

The Eid of Unity and Peace: A Dream Beyond Borders

This poem was written by a LGBT+ refugee in Africa, who self identifies as Christian, and who wants to commemorate the end of Ramadan among his Muslim neighbours; his poem is published here in the spirit of acknowledging our common humanity and hoping for human peace regardless of background or belief.

ai-generated image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Beneath the crescent moon’s gentle gleam,
Eid al-Fitr whispers a collective dream.
A dream where faith and hope intertwine,
Uniting Muslims in a bond divine.

From Mecca’s sands to Jakarta’s shores,
The call of peace our heart implores.
With prayers and smiles, we break our fast,
In gratitude for Ramadan now past.

Yet, in our joy, we cannot forget,
Those under shadows of sorrow’s silhouette.
In Palestine, where olive trees weep,
For innocent lives, the cost is steep.

Children, mothers, and LGBTQ souls,
Caught in conflict, a heavy toll.
Their dreams of Eid, tinged with despair,
Yearning for peace in the air.

To our siblings in humanity’s embrace,
We send our love to that troubled place.
Wishing for the day when freedom rings,
And from every minaret, peace sings.

We call upon Israel, with hope in our voice,
To choose compassion, to make the choice.
To halt the persecution, the pain, the fears,
To dry the tears, to end the years.

Let this Eid be more than a feast,
Let it be the day when love increased.
Where every heart, near and far,
Joins in the prayer for an end to war.

So, as we celebrate, let’s not forget,
The power of love, to conquer yet.
Eid Mubarak, let this be the start,
Of a world where peace doesn’t depart.

Composed by Joseph. K

This blog ©2024 Geoff Allshorn. All rights for this poem returned to the poet Joseph K.

Fighting Ghana’s Anti-LGBT+ Hate Bill

The struggle for freedom continues on Ghana’s Independence Day

It has been a very long and arduous journey in the quest for freedom and justice (the motto of Ghana’s republic) for LGBT+ people in the country.

The LGBT+ community has faced various levels of persecution, abuse and discrimination for decades and today, we’re at a crucial moment in Ghana’s history since Ghana’s parliament ‘unanimously’ approved of the draconian Anti-LGBT bill titled “Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Act 2024”.

The bill threatens to jail LGBT persons and allies for up to 5 years for simply identifying as such, mandates every citizen to have the duty to report any person or persons that violates the Bill, takes away access to housing, healthcare, education, jobs, freedom of association and freedom of speech, etc to anyone deemed to be a person who is “involved in the promotion of, propagation of, advocacy for, support or funding of LGBTTQAP+”.

Despite the opposition of the Bill by LGBT activists who have put their lives on the line, allies and CSOs, the proponents of the Bill have forged ahead with blatant lies, propaganda and far-right, bigoted rhetoric to impose their religious ideas and put fear and intimidation on Members of Parliament.

For years’ influential people such as the former speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Prof. Michael Ocquaye and Lawyer Foh-Amoaning have written articles and spoken in public gatherings advocating for the punishment and continued bashing of LGBT people in Ghana. This was so much so that, Mr. Foh-Amoaning started a coalition with the same name as the original title of the bill, “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values” and went on a campaign to promote it through the media and in 2019, they hosted the first anti-LGBT conference in partnership with the World Congress of Families, an American Far-Right Christian extremist group tagged as a HATE group. The WCF was added to the list of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-LGBTI+ hate groups in February 2014 for its involvement with the 2013 Russian LGBT propaganda law and opposing LGBTI+ rights internationally. The WCF have been notorious for imposing their fundamentalist ideas of patriarchy, misogyny, Islamophobia, white supremacy and homophobia in the United States of America and other parts of the world.

Come January 2020, LGBT+ Rights Ghana, an LGBT advocacy group championing the rights of LGBT persons in Ghana and working to support victims/survivors of physical, social and mental abuse, acquired a space and invited some members of the diplomatic corps to Commission the space. However, upon hearing of the event, The Coalition called for the closure of the LGBT advocacy center but failed to mention how so many other Ghanaians also spoke up about their support for the Center and their disappointment of its closure. The Center, which was the first of its kind was to support the various NGOs and individuals get the much needed help from our education, healthcare and security agencies to curb the constant abuse and discrimination of real and perceived LGBT+ persons against blackmail, stigmatization, lack of employment, high suicidal rates, domestic abuse, sexual assault, mob lynching and emotional abuses, etc. that are prevalent in the country and have been researched and documented by Human Rights Watch. This Bill was therefore borne out of the homophobia and fear of the Coalition without the proper understanding of the event for the Office Opening, the work of LGBTI groups or without engaging with the participants and stakeholders of the LGBT+ Community. The police raided the Center and it was closed down.

A year later, the Anti-LGBT Bill was born and with the support of the current Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin, who gave the go ahead for the sponsors of the bill made up of 8 MPs led by Sam George (MP, Ningo-Prampram), alongside Emmanuel Bedzrah (MP, Ho West) Della Adjoa Sowah (MP, Kpando), John Ntim Fordjour (MP, Assin South), Alhassan Sayibu Suhuyini (MP, Tamale North), Helen Adjoa Ntoso (MP, Krachi West), Rita Naa Odoley Sowah (MP, La Dadekotopon) and Rockson Nelson Dafeamekpor (MP, South Dayi).

Soon after the introduction of the Bill in Parliament, the Committee on Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs of the Parliament of Ghana requested feedback from the general public, and hearings were heard for days from concerned citizens and the international community, including the then-UN special envoy for Gender Equality and other CSOs such as the ‘Big 18’ made up of renowned Ghanaian scholars and legal practitioners against the bill. Those for the bill were mainly from the religious community.

Prior to and since the inception of the bill, abuse cases against real and perceived LGBT persons have significantly increased such as the arrest and detention of 21 alleged LGBT people, beatings and suicide rates have gone high, most of which are not reported as the police tend to also act as perpetrators of abuse on victims.

It has been a tough back and forth with the media, religious leaders, entertainment icons, politicians and academics debating and arguing to and for the Bill for the last 3 years. In a highly religious country like Ghana, It came as a bit of a surprise to many that the Bill took this long and faced such strong opposition. However, with the Speaker of Parliament declining the request for a secret ballot to be held amongst the MPs, it was unfortunate that last Wednesday, the 28th of February 2024, the Bill was passed supposedly unanimously even though it’s alleged that less than 50% of the quorum voted verbally with seemingly no opposition, leaving the decision on Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo to assent to it or not before it becomes law or is thrown back to Parliament. Incidentally, Parliament has threatened to override the President’s veto decision if he doesn’t assent to it.

Immediately following the passage of the Bill in Parliament, the backlash towards the government soared both locally and internationally with Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the US Department of State, saying in a statement that the United States is “deeply troubled by the Ghanaian Parliament’s passage of legislation, officially called the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill …The bill would also undermine Ghana’s valuable public health, media and civic spaces, and economy. International business coalitions have already stated that such discrimination in Ghana would harm business and economic growth in the country,” Miller said.

UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said the bill is a barrier to ending AIDS.
“If it becomes law, it will obstruct access to life-saving services, undercut social protection, and jeopardize Ghana’s development success,” she said in a statement.

The International Monetary Fund also voiced its vigilance over the passage of the bill. The IMF said it’s monitoring events in Ghana after lawmakers passed a bill seeking up to three years in jail for people identifying as an LGBTQ person. “Diversity and inclusion are values that the IMF embraces,” the Washington-based lender said in a statement. “Our internal policies prohibit discrimination based on personal characteristics, including but not limited to gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Like institutions, diverse and inclusive economies flourish.”

Soon after these statements, Ghana’s Ministry of Finance pleaded with President Akufo-Addo not to assent to the recently passed anti-LGBTQ bill by Parliament. In a press release on Monday, March 4, the Finance Ministry cautioned that approving the bill could result in significant financial consequences for Ghana. According to the Finance Ministry’s statement, Ghana stands to lose a substantial amount of World Bank financing, estimating a potential loss of USD$3.8 billion over the next five to six years. Specifically, the impact for 2024 includes a loss of USD$600 million in budget support and USD$250 million for the Financial Stability Fund, adversely affecting Ghana’s foreign exchange reserves and exchange rate stability.

On the 4th of March 2024, The President issued a statement speaking for the first time since its passage in Parliament. He said Ghana will not backslide on its human rights record, and added that the bill had been challenged in the Supreme Court. “I have learnt that, today, a challenge has been mounted at the Supreme Court,” Akufo-Addo said in a statement. “In the circumstances, it would be as well for all of us to hold our hands and await the decision of the Court before any action is taken,” he added.

Given that Ghana was the first African country to gain Independence on the 6th of March 1957, there would be protests online and in-person in Ghana, Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, Germany and Denmark to demonstrate against the Anti-LGBT Bill and to plead with the President not to assent to the Bill. The show of love and support from the International community in solidarity with the LGBT Community in Ghana and with the quest to save Ghana’s Democracy and secular constitution has come with much appreciation, admiration and love.

This marks an historic moment and we hope that reason and compassion will win over dogmatic bigotry. Long live Ghana!!!

#queerghanaianlivesmatter
#killthebill
#nanaaddokillthebill
.

Roslyn Mould
Vice President, Humanists International
President, Accra Atheists

This blog ©2024 Geoff Allshorn. All rights for this article returned to writer Roslyn Mould.

O little town of Bethlehem

Image by Brigitte make custom works from your photos, thanks a lot from Pixabay

O little town of Bethlehem
Engulfed in war and death!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The world draws bated breath.
For in your dark streets brimmeth
The ghosts of all those lost,
Our hopes and fears meet deafened ears
Your children are the cost.

The Christ story of ancient times
Is told anew today
While women search for birthing place
“No room” – they are turned away.
No mourning for the children
The lost of Gaza’s birth.
A massacre of innocents
No peace across the Earth.

The women of Afghanistan
Their hopes are a lost refrain.
The children dying in Yemen
or Sudan or the Ukraine.
No ear may hear their suffering
But in this world of choice,
Let humble folk rise up and fight,
And give others a Voice.

Our world is full of ancient yore
Of nobility and memes
And yet we see mass death and war
That seem to negate our dreams.
May we all find renewed hope
Real action, not blank stares.
Becoming our own answer to
Those yearned-for thoughts and prayers.

O hollow town of Bethlehem
Why do we ignore your plight,
While affluent folk everywhere
Share gifts only for one night?
They smile and bleat platitudes,
Proclaiming peace on Earth,
While others wail their silent cries
And die in shameful dearth.

Oh ancient tale of Bethlehem
You seem very far away,
Especially from Ugandan queers
Or trans folk in USA.
As we hear Christmas carols
May we please learn anew
The moral strengths attributed
One Palestinian Jew!*

*With thanks to Leunig (“Away in A Manger”, The Age, 15 December 2023) for the inspiration.

©2023 Geoff Allshorn

The Colors of Hope

The Colors of Hope for LGBTIQ+ Souls in Africa.

Amidst the trials and shadows’ shroud,
Where hues of hope begin to crowd,
In Africa’s embrace, where pain does sear,
LGBTIQ+ souls, do not fear.

In silence, in strife, they brave the night,
Seeking refuge, a glimmering light,
‘Midst doubts and struggles, they endure,
Their spirit strong, their courage pure.

For love in colors, they face disdain,
Yet within, a resilience remains,
Their dignity, their rights to be,
In a world where they’re truly free.

Hold tight, dear souls, through stormy seas,
Your existence a beacon, breaking free,
In unity, your strength prevails,
Your stories, your truth, a timeless tale.

Each step you take, each breath you draw,
A testament to your resilience raw,
Within your hearts, a flame aglow,
Embracing hope, letting it grow.

Your journey’s tough, your path unclear,
But hope’s whisper, do stop and hear,
For in the darkest of the night,
Stars emerge, a guiding light.

Your worth is vast, your voices strong,
In unity, you truly belong,
Rise, shine bright, don’t yield, don’t flee,
For a world that’s just, and one that’s free.

Though shadows loom and doubts may reign,
Your unity, your love sustain,
In solidarity, you’ll find your way,
To brighter, bolder, sunlit days.

So hold on tight, stand tall and true,
Your courage, your strength, a stunning view,
For in your hearts, a chorus sings,
Of hope, resilience, and colorful wings.

Compiled by Joseph. K (He/Him)

©2023 Geoff Allshorn. All rights returned to the author.