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 CNS Story:

ZAMBIA-AID Dec-21-2011 (460 words) xxxi

Zambian churches unhappy with US stance to tie aid to homosexual rights

By Mwansa Pintu
Catholic News Service

LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) -- Church organizations are unhappy with the stance taken by the U.S. government to tie foreign aid to the assurance of homosexual rights.

The Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Pentecostal Church's Bishops' Council of Zambia and the Zambia United Christian Action said that it was unwise for the U.S. government to use its money to force other nations to permit "ungodly practices" in their land.

Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries, with some nations enforcing stiff penalties, including imprisonment, for people who engage in homosexual relationships and practices.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in early December that the United States would use the supply of aid as well as diplomacy as tools to improve gay and lesbian rights around the world.

Clinton said that a country's cultural or religious traditions were no excuse for discrimination and directed U.S. government agencies to use foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance non-discrimination while working with international organizations to promote gay and lesbian rights.

Her statement came barely a month after British Prime Minister David Cameron also threatened to reduce aid to nations that did not respect the rights of homosexuals.

Father Paul Samasumo, Zambian bishops' conference spokesman, said it would be wrong for Zambia to accept gays and lesbians simply because of donor aid.

"Donor aid should not be tied to promoting immorality," Father Samasumo said in Lusaka Dec. 20.

But the government's information minister, Given Lubinda, assured that the country's leaders would not bow to outside pressure to respect and tolerate homosexuality in the nation.

He reminded western nations about the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and Accra Agenda of Action, which guide development aid distribution and do not mention acceptance of same-sex marriage as the basis for offering aid to the poor nations.

Rev. Gibson Nyirenda, spokesman for the Pentecostal bishops' council, urged Zambia to reject any donor aid that comes with conditions.

"For us as a nation, we cannot go in that direction because it is indecent and can erode our morals as society. Let's remain a Christian nation by ignoring such assistance," Rev Nyirenda said.

He appealed to the government to ensure that Zambians were protected from immorality even in the face of poverty.

Bishop John Jere, Zambia United Christian Action president, said it was shocking that Western nations were continuing to use development aid to coerce poor countries into accepting practices that were against traditional norms.

"Homosexuality is a sin and as a country we are a Christian nation, so I don't think we should even spend time to consider it despite pressure from anyone," he said.

He commended Zambian President Michael Sata for declaring that the nation would be ruled under the Ten Commandments and called on Zambians to support his stance.


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