A Legacy of Tolerance—A History of Violence: Positive Peace and the LGBT Community

David KatoTwo events separated by 5,000 years made the news last week. The first event was the reporting that archeologists in the Czech Republic unearthed the skeleton of what they believed is the first known gay and/or transgender burial. The buried remains of a man show his head pointed east—a direction associated with women of the culture—surrounded by jewelry and domestic pots. Local men of this era were buried facing west with their weapons and favorite beverages.

The second event was the announcement by the Uganda Parliament that it had dropped its consideration of an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has been pending since 2009. This measure, reportedly encouraged by western evangelicals, called for life imprisonment for “the offense of homosexuality,” and the death penalty for repeated offenses. It also called for the incarceration of gay-rights defenders, and the jailing of persons who failed to report the existence of LGBT persons or sympathizers within 24 hours of such discovery. This follows on the heels of the January murder of Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato.

Reading about these two events in tandem, one is faced with questions, both alarming and paradoxical. How is it that a primitive society would act with such compassion and respect, whereas modern society acts with barbarity? What led to these ancient people not only being tolerant, but respectful, while in 2011 a county like Nigeria proscribes stoning to death for people who are gay?

Certainly, it is a leap to assume from one burial that all ancient societies behaved similarly. However, this doesn’t diminish the importance of us asking ourselves why so many of our modern societies have found a refuge in devaluing groups to make them less than human. As we learned through the deaths of over 100 million persons in the 20th century, modernity is no protection from our succumbing to acts of genocide.

One modern occurrence that postdates the burial of this ancient ancestor is the birth of the world’s great religions. Meant to draw people closer to the spiritual, there is no denying that in the hands of man the power of religion is easily corrupted. From religious wars, to terrorist activities, to stake burnings, mankind has put its own spin on the wishes of a Supreme Being.

Many religious groups espouse intolerance to homosexuality. There is also no denying that along with intolerance comes a tacit approval to disdain, to devalue, and to dehumanize. It would be disingenuous to then claim that such formal approbation does not lead to acts of violence by those looking to ingratiate themselves with the group issuing the fatwa. Because of this, it becomes all the more important that those religious groups and individuals who embrace the rights of LGBT persons are vocal. We look to these leaders to demonstrate the path of positive peace to their followers and to other religious leaders.

Five thousand years after laying a valued member to rest, an ancient society affirms a human legacy of respect for our fellow man. We are left with insight into our nature, and the power of acts of peacebuilding to speak to future generations.

Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill reportedly dropped: http://news.pinkpaper.com/NewsStory/5134/4/04/2011/ugandan-anti-homosexuality-bill-reportedly-dropped.aspx

Ugandan Who Spoke Up for Gays Is Beaten to Death: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/africa/28uganda.html

‘Gay Caveman’ Found By Archaeologists Near Prague: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/07/gay-caveman-found-prague_n_846246.htmled_with_.html

by William Repicci

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