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Kenyan Church Welcomes LGBT Members


FILE - A Kenyan gay couple is seen holding hands. Homosexuality is illegal in at least 36 African countries, including Kenya. Penalties include prison and fines. (Photo - Rael Ombuor/VOA)

FILE - A Kenyan gay couple is seen holding hands. Homosexuality is illegal in at least 36 African countries, including Kenya. Penalties include prison and fines. (Photo - Rael Ombuor/VOA)

In early September, the Anglican Church of Kenya cancelled the license of clergymen suspected of homosexuality.

The suspension sent a message that Kenyan churches do not welcome homosexuals.

But one location offers religious services to gays, homosexuals, bisexual and transgender people.

Lilian Kimani is 28 years old. She sits in the back of a church in central Nairobi that welcomes people who live non-traditional lifestyles.

“For a long time, I had not attended normal church, well, because I felt like the likes of me are not accepted maybe. Many people don’t know that I'm gay, you know? If they knew, they would look at me differently. But I choose to go where I am accepted, where I do not have to hide my identity.”

Reverend Barasa Makokha reaches out and ministers to sexual minorities. But some Kenyans strongly oppose his efforts. The clergyman says he has been threatened several times for welcoming homosexuals. The name of his church is not publicized because he fears for the safety of his parish.

But he refuses to give in.

“It will be wrong for any clergy to preach a message that can create some spiritual violence in terms of excluding people, in terms of judging people and in terms of making people even hate themselves, especially the LGBT people, because the church has to change its perspective, and the church also needs to understand the LGBT people.”

Other religious leaders disagree with Reverend Makokha. Reverend Silaz Mukulwa of the Anglican Church says ministers should help homosexuals develop an interest in members of the opposite sex.

“A man should not sexually involve himself with another man. That is evil, and if any church engages in such things, the church is not worshipping the living God because God’s teachings is against it.”

When President Barack Obama visited Kenya in July, he said sexual minorities should have equal rights. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called it a non-issue.

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 36 African countries, including Kenya. Punishment includes jail terms and fines.

Many people say they oppose homosexuality because of their religious and cultural beliefs.

The few who attend Reverend Makokha’s weekly religious service find moments of peace, free of discrimination.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Rael Ombuor reported this story from Nairobi. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow and Kathleen Struck were the editors.

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Words in This Story

attracted – v. to cause a liking or interest in someone

homosexual – n. someone who desires members of the same sex

license – n. permission to do, use or have something

location – n. a place or position

gay(s) – n. another description for homosexual

bisexual – n. someone who desires both genders

transgender – n. people who have a sexual identify different from their biological identity

identity – n. the qualities or beliefs that make a particular person or group different from others

minister to – v. to help or care for (someone or something)

parish - n. the group of people who go to the church in a particular area

perspective – n. a way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue or life in general)

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