Pema Kenya has in the past years engaged essential service providers in order to offer services to the GSM without stigma and discrimination. However, some of the feedback we have received from both the GSM and the essential service providers is that the denial of these services is based on their faith, cultural values and religious beliefs, confirmed by their religious leaders. Most of them quoting the Bible and the Quran verses that condemn the GSM rather than following their own professional values and instructions. This therefore informed the need of this curriculum to engage the essential service providers in creating awareness and taking the service providers through gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual diversity, culture and faith with the aim of expanding safe spaces for the GSM in these institutions that offer the essential services
Faith Leaders/GSM community (Queers of Faith)
Over the past eleven years, PEMA Kenya has also engaged larger number of leaders in Kenya, including religious leaders on issues around gender and sexual diversity using the “Facing our Fears” Manual, a tool that had been effective in igniting conversations, reflections and debate on Gender and Sexual Diversity. This is because faith leaders play a crucial role in igniting conversations in the communities they serve. They reach out to a large number of people with messaging that resonates with the religious beliefs, doctrines and faith traditions.
Through this engagement, certain faith leaders have become human rights defenders within their communities, offering support and a shoulder to lean on for persons whose rights are directly violated and those under threat of violation.
However, there is a number of religious leaders that we have engaged through the facing our fears manual have not as expected fully become allies/supporters. This would mean that there is a gap with these group of religious leaders specifically to fully understanding or equipping them with the necessary information/capacity build or raise their awareness in understanding faith in relation to sexual orientation and gender diversity. This will provide an avenue for improving on the steps or successes achieved by the Facing our Fears manual.
In an outcome mapping exercise conducted by Pema Kenya in 2019, it was observed that the faith leaders (respondents) were at different levels of attitude change from the responses that the attitude change was not the same all through. A sneak preview into some of the findings are captured as below:
|Rigid and unwelcoming||These respondents are against GSM Acceptance. They are of the view that with counselling and prayer the GSM can change. Their attitude has not changed.||15%|
|Non-Disclosure/Cautious||These Respondents refused to disclose whether there is an attitude change. Some cited security reasons and others cited their position in the places of faith.||8.33%|
|Understanding and Respectful||These respondents acknowledge a shift from hating and demonising to understanding and acceptance. They acknowledge it will take time. They commit to respect humanity and protect their rights.||60%|
|Integration||These respondents are open, inclusive and affirming. Willing to act, engage and embrace the GSM. They are empathetic of the challenges of the GSM.||16.67%|
Overall, over 85% of the respondents agreed that the Facing our Fears training ignited a change in the faith leader’s attitude toward the GSM. The respondents in this study however, shared that one-time engagement was not adequate and suggested that several follow up sessions were needed to create a deeper understanding which would develop into a larger impact.
The faith leaders have come to the awareness of the life reality of the GSM however; their faith and theological principles are still strong and override their will to take action. As such, the transition to an inclusive and affirming faith leader is not immediate, but a process with stages that have to be built upon.
PEMA Kenya understands that to be an affirming faith leader i.e. open, inclusive, willing to act, engage and embrace the GSM; is a process that is equally internal and external. The external process can refer to PEMA Kenya interventions such as the gender diversity training, HIV workshops, Human Rights seminars etc. The internal process may entail being conscious and critical reflection of scripture, navigating societal dilemmas, acknowledging human dignity and embracing affirming pastoral approaches. It’s critical that faith leaders are supported to resolve any lingering conflicts for them. For instance, the question of whether one can still be a good faith leader and be supportive at the same time.
This also means having the resilience to stand for what is contextually appropriate. This might or will come at a cost. In several instances, faith leaders are side-lined and stigmatized by their own peers. Some are excommunicated for association with causes that their doctrines do not support. These challenges that Faith Leaders face led to isolation and separation in their own spaces and also impacts their influence and credibility. But faith leaders are also emboldened that the core of their work, which is evangelization, is often not for the faint-hearted. Their forebears and from whom their draw inspiration often faced social isolation for being visionaries, able to see and preach about a possible future society to people barely able to make sense of the present. This Training for dialogue guide is meant to move the faith leaders to a place where they can engage holistically, having a conversation with the mind and heart.
It is envisaged that faith leaders and essential service providers who participate in this authentic and holistic dialogue are able to see human beings from how God sees them, as equal, deserving of dignity and respect without conditions.
GOAL OF THE TRAINING
This training supported by FRI, facilitated/capacitated moderators of Compassion in Action dialogues (UTU Barazas) between Gender and Sexual Minorities, Faith leaders drawn from Muslim, Christian and African Traditional faiths and Essential Service Providers (Health Care Workers, Law enforcement officers and Local Administrators (Chiefs, Village Elders, Balozis, Sub-chiefs, youth representatives) and other service providers.
The process took 6 days. The first three days we focused on engaging Religious leaders, GSM persons of Faith and Essential Service Providers to induct them in the methodology of Utu barazas, to reflect on the faith and culture based hindrances to service delivery.
The last three days, we engaged Religious leaders and GSM persons of faith in a deeper dive into the separate manuals/guides including Facing our Fears (FoF), Integrated Leadership Module (ILM) and Hearts Set on Pilgrimage (HSoP) which they had engaged in previously and also to find pathways and collaborative efforts in supporting the Essential Service Providers in conducting impactful Utu barazas.
OBJECTIVES AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TRAINING
After the 6 days, we were able to create a cadre of 14 essential service providers who are well informed with affirmative theology. We established strong synergies among the 14 essential service providers to collaborate with the 14 religious leaders and the 14 GSM community. Through the Utu Baraza that will be rolled out, we will expand the safe spaces for the GSM in various institutions that provide essential services. And through continuous engagements, we will equip a cohort of mixed groups (essential service providers, religious leaders and GSM) of moderators for the UTU barazas.
- George ONYANGO, Consultant – Pema Kenya
- Ishmael BAHATI, Executive Director – Pema Kenya
- Vincent OBWANDA, Head of Programs – Pema Kenya
- Maximillah KIDALI, Faith Engagement Officer – Pema Kenya
- Cosam MAKHOVEH, ICT & Programs Officer – Pema Kenya