Christian leaders in Ethiopia have denounced an LGBT campaign in the country, calling on the government to defend the nation’s religious values.
“We are witnessing foreign elements that are trying to spread homosexuality in Ethiopia using aid, politics, and technology,” said a spokesperson for Dereje Negash (pictured), a religious group affiliated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. “To this end, they are spending millions of dollars.”
“Same-sex couples are getting married secretly here in Ethiopia. It should stop, and stop now,” said leaders of the group at a press conference Sunday in the nation’s capital of Addis Ababa.
The group has called on the government to adopt stricter laws on the punishment of homosexual activity. At present, Ethiopian anti-sodomy laws stipulate up to 15 years in prison for any homosexual act, but church leaders have said this is insufficient.
“Our culture does not leave room for this type of activity. We have values that are losing their importance because of the proliferation of these practices,” they said.
The group’s leaders said the government’s indifference has helped to embolden the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement in the East African country.
While Ethiopia is divided between Christianity and Islam, leaders of both faiths have united in their opposition to homosexual practice.
Last June, religious leaders from different faiths called on their government to take a stand against an American travel agency claiming to be the only gay travel agency in the world, which was advertising visits to Ethiopia’s historic sites.
“The Ethiopian government should address this matter and play its part in protecting the younger generation from immoral practices, which are contrary to Ethiopian values and religion,” the religious leaders said.
The groups were particularly upset that the itinerary offered by the Toto Tours company included religious sites.
Since coming to power, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been advocating political and economic openness, while remaining silent on the question of homosexuality.
More than half of African nations have laws criminalizing homosexual relations, where many regard homosexuality as a western import. These laws have been targeted by human rights NGOs who push for greater openness to homosexual activity on the continent.