African churches and LGTB need to have a dialogue
“Our cultures have an important place in the society so to fight for rights should be done through dialogue”. Jimmy, a missionary brother says during the interview he had with us about his life as missionary and gay.
Adelard.K: When did you realize about your sexual orientation?
Br. Jimmy: I realized I had a different feeling not very young, though, at 10, I remember admiring someone who became my great friend, I loved meeting him, seating together in class hanging around together but the thought of sexuality never came into my mind but I had great feelings for him.
Even now as a married man whenever we meet, I recall those days of our encounter… but that shows me that sexual orientation is not what happens between 2 men or women as many people tend to think it is a natural feeling between 2 people which I think is very normal.
Has it ever been a problem for your vocation? and How do you live your choice to follow God (Faith) and your sexuality?
Yes, because sometimes I felt not understood by the way I put my reasoning. I think living my vocation and this style of life is not a problem if we don’t allow to be cheated by those who use it as a means of finding a living. I mean people taking advantage of the fact that you are gay and consecrated or priest and use it to blackmail you in order to get money from it which sometimes happens considering the fact that the society will take it as a scandal.
I once found myself in front of a situation where a friend used the fact that I am religious to publish my photos and names because I had attended a gay party, which was good, people well behaved and it was a success but because he wanted money out of it he planned this I let him do whatever he wanted but it never went far.
It’s not easy to socialize because of that reason and our societies are also not ready for such a topic that is why it tends to homophobic, I would say out of ignorance and understanding.
Do you feel welcome and free in your choice with others?
I think at the internal life of the community there is no problem, I look at sexual orientation as a lifestyle, lifestyle which should be lived in a positive sense, when one lives likewise, there is no problem.
No one goes around to record the orientation of others, then sometimes in our private talks, to live well the communitarian experience we need to communicate it and share with our brothers, is it understood??? In most cases no, but what matters first is the relationship for people who live in the community. It can be understood and can be a gift to others too.
Why did you make the choice of communitarian life?
I made this choice actually before I concluded that I have a different orientation, I grew in a mixt boarding school. I had opportunity to have reasonable time with opposite sex, and feel their love too, at the same time I recall that I found more attraction to mingle among boys, yes with lots of girls among the team but I didn’t behave the way majority of my friends did, running after girls at night and this sometimes put a question mark from the friends perspective though it never caused any problem to me because I had a girl like others but never wasted extra time just to be with her.
Hence it made me the giant in a boarding school on issues of self-control. At the same time, nothing happened among the boys, It was not clear for me the feelings for boys.
What helps you to keep on track?
I manage to keep on track, not by myself I am sure, because in community life I have seen a lot, many people come in because of different issues, one being gender, either they fear to have families with children, or not being able to satisfy the women they will choose, or just because they want to escape, but communitarian experience is no home for escape, one needs to put himself in front of God and say here I am, take me as I am, and give me what it is needed to be what you want, this is my experience of 22 years in community, I have no regret, and I have not only once shared this with my leaders, just because I love them they have listened, helped me….
Not to become a different thing but to learn to manage my sexual behavior which is normal in all orientations.
You have been in many countries as a missionary, how do you define the different perspectives in approaching homosexuality in Catholic churches?
In Africa, countries more open to LGBT are South Africa, Botswana, here I noticed that the Church itself doesn’t condemn but mold and help where need be. For example, Holy Trinity the Chapel at Witz University in Johannesburg has put special evening Masses for LGBT every Thursday and it turned into dinner together as well, great moment, where I saw many young people go to mass, go for confessions, receive communion but they remain who they are.
In African countries, you have been to, which one do you qualify as open and welcome to LGTBI?
I think African countries need to open up to understand the situation of every individual, and Churches in Africa too should do the same, am very sure some do a lot in this regard, but I feel very strongly inside me is one other thing, if we want to be understood how do we present ourselves to the unknown?
The way we present our issues in African is not ok, our cultures have an important place in society so to fight for rights should be done through dialogue. Gay issues should be put in dialogue with our cultures, especially talking to mothers, parents, the message can to go smoothly and can be listened with the possibility of being understood.
There is a need for great understanding before speaking, In South Africa, all this became possible because of the good relations born among LGBT and the Jesuits …this eventually created a good understanding.
What would you say about African cultures and religion on Homosexuality?
Listening before judging anyone, but both, church and LGBT need to dialogue, a dialogue, which starts in private and bring openness.
What else would you like to share with us, and you would wish to be heard by other young people who are still strangling with faith and sexuality?
There is one piece of advice in-store, non-one should miss out on this, “ we have one life” if I had two I would use one for God and one for me, but since we have only one, we strive to live well. Be gay be Bisexual, be straight, be whatever we are, we can only be understood by the way we live, I know life is not always easy, but for example to be Christian and be part of LGBT you must go against the current in a way, what do I mean here, I have my calling and private life too, I can hang around with my peers, I can attend functions too wherever I am invited, but what do I do there and how do I behave there is the question, not easy at all. ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condom) is not only for straight people is for all human beings.
So, this is my advice, let’s be free but remember as Christians we know well that freedom is not free. It was paid, we have to be part of the story.