THE ALICIA WALLACE COLUMN: Here we go again - the church seeking to control how we think

It was recently confirmed that Pride celebrations will be held in The Bahamas in October 2020. It is no surprise this announcement was closely followed by homophobic rhetoric, proclamations that The Bahamas is a Christian nation and that we should remain focused on hurricane relief and nothing else.

Many people have strong feelings about LGBT+ people and are not content to keep them to themselves. They believe their feelings are more important than the lives of others.

Homophobia is rooted in and related to several systems of oppression and, in The Bahamas and throughout the region, is built upon and supported by religious fundamentalism. Here, the Christian church has set the tone and moulded our behaviour on a number of issues. In particular, The Bahamas Christian Council consistently attempts to assert itself as a moral authority on a particular set of issues while noticeably ignoring others.


Bishop Delton Fernander, President of the Christian Council. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

There has been a constant question about what determines what the Bahamas Christian Council chooses to comment on and assert its power as the conscience of what is perhaps the largest constituency in the country as opposed to what it is content to ignore. We rarely hear its voice on issues of violence, mental health, child safety, or poverty. It does not tend to instruct the government to protect the human rights of women or children when they are violated. How many churches open their doors to the unhoused? How many religious leaders work to bring information to their congregations directly from experts and practitioners so that they can make their own decisions (rather than accept, parrot, and act on what they hear from pulpits).

It is clear the Bahamas Christian Council has no interest in empowering the Bahamian people. It is interested in control. It wants to exert its power. It wants to make this country a Christian nation by ridding it of all that it deems to be unchristian through its dangerous speech and the riling up of its followers.

It was disturbing to see that the Bahamas Christian Council has announced that it will hold an anti-gay rally. It is one thing to decline to offer support, and entirely different to directly oppose - especially standing on a religious text - an already vulnerable community.

It is despicable that this is the way the Bahamas Christian Council chooses to use its resources and influence. Pride events take place all over the world, providing a space for LGBT+ people to be in community with one another and, if desired, with allies. It is has little to do with people outside of the community or those staunchly opposed to what they incorrectly deem a “lifestyle.” The options are to participate and support or to steer clear of the events. There is no need to protest the identities of LGBT+ people. Rallying the general public to “take a stand” against LGBT+ people, selling the fiction that it is synonymous with standing for Jesus is irresponsible and hateful.

We have to understand that our religious beliefs do not apply to other people. This country cannot be governed by the religious text of one group of people, no matter how large. LGBT+ people are human beings and it follows that the community has human rights. Pride presents an opportunity for those interested to learn about the LGBT+ community, for corporate entities to increase sensitivity to diverse identities in the workplace, and for the wider community to learn to be more supportive of LGBT+ people. It is not a time for religion to be used as a weapon against one of the most marginalized communities in this country.

There are pervasive issues that need to be addressed, and the influence of the Bahamas Christian Council could be useful, and it is unfortunate that they choose to use it differently, targeting innocent people.

People are hungry, children are being abused, hundreds of people are living in shelters, and we do not have a consistent supply of electricity. Pick a cause. Any cause, as long as it helps people rather than hurting them.

Being a member of the UN has many advantages

The Bahamas is a member of the United Nations and actively participates in sessions such as the General Assembly which is held in September every year.

Not only is this country a member of the UN, but it has chosen to sign on to numerous conventions and declarations. These include the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrmination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The country voluntarily signed, demonstrating its intent to adhere to or, at the very least, work toward adherence to what is outlined in them. These are for the benefit of the people of The Bahamas, expanding our rights and increasing our access to the rights we already have.

Following the report that 112 Haitian people were deported on October 10, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) responded with a call to discontinue deportations at this time. This has resulted in - as is often the case when a UN body speaks to an issue in The Bahamas - people spewing misinformation about the entity. It must be made clear the UN is not, nor does it attempt to be a bully to any government or country. It cannot force any country to take a particular action, but it can remind them of its Charters and any treaties it has signed, highlight violations of human rights, and encourage governments to act in ways that align with their espoused values.

It is completely reasonable for OHCHR to recommend the Government of The Bahamas acknowledge the rights of migrant people under international law, and find alternate ways to address the issue of people, particularly following the destruction of Hurricane Dorian, lacking documentation.

The visceral response to the statement from OHCHR is fuelled by two strongly held positions. One is that people are opposed to our UN membership, largely because they generally do not understand what the UN is or The Bahamas’ relationship with and participation in the body. Many may not even be aware  The Bahamas now sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council - one of the treaty bodies that reviews, assesses and makes recommendations to countries on issues of human rights.

The second position is that Haitian people are subhuman, or somehow deserving of less than Bahamians. Related to that is the view that there are no circumstances under which it would be appropriate or, more specifically, advantageous to allow Haitian migrants to live and work in The Bahamas for a decent wage and access public services.

The former is indicative of a failure on the part of the government to inform the public of its duties, functions and activities outside of country borders and the role of international bodies with which we interact on a regular basis. The latter is the product of misinformation, xenophobia, and consistent elevation of self interest above common good.

The UN has been painted as an overbearing, power-wielding entity run by foreigners who want to control this country. This is a mischaracterisation of the UN, its purpose, its influence and its goal.

It is comprised of close to 200 countries that are expected to engage respectfully and with reasonable knowledge of global affairs and the standards and values the body has come to represent. There are significant advantages to membership in the UN, especially when we join with allies on issues of particular importance. For example, we saw leaders of Caribbean countries stand up and tell UN member countries that is critical to take climate action and provide support to The Bahamas.

Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is deceptive and, when taken on its own, communicates to the funders that The Bahamas is generally not in need of financial assistance. This is, of course, a barrier to getting sufficient financial aid not only for disaster relief, but for mitigation and adaptation.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are particularly at risk of the effects of climate change. Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley has spoken to the need for other countries to step up and provide the financial support that could save countries, homes, and lives.

The United Nations does not impose itself upon countries. It is an intergovernmental organization established in 1945 for the purpose of international cooperation. It adopted a charter which clearly states as its purpose the promotion of peace and security, development of friendly relations and problem-solving between countries and determining actions that lead to common goals.

No country can be forced to join the United Nations or to participate in its activities. No country is forced to sign conventions or declarations. Countries can choose to participate in treaty bodies, and when they do, they are required to adhere to the documents signed, report regularly, and be accountable for what they have or have not done.

The Bahamian government must be held accountable for the lives it puts at risk and the trauma it causes by refusing to consider current circumstances, uphold human rights, and resist the urge to appeal to the worst in us in an exchange it hopes will result in votes.


joeblow 4 years, 1 month ago

Here goes the 3% trying to tell the 97% that they should agree with them or be labelled as "phobic". In a democracy a person has a RIGHT to be hateful, racist, sexually deviant (as a consenting adult) or any other thing they choose. If minority voices were to be silenced the LGBT community would have no voice at all!


Porcupine 4 years, 1 month ago

Wow. Did your parents never warn you of the behaviour of lemmings? Watch out for that cliff? That you should have stayed in school instead. We are quickly identifying the reasons for being last place on most metrics, other than at track and field.


joeblow 4 years, 1 month ago

Quite adept at independent analysis thanks. Your conclusions are not the standard by which the quality of a persons education can be judged, sorry! This country is filled with schools but the majority of the population has no critical thinking skills and are essentially uneducated in so many ways! The answer is not to ban education because it is repressive, but to try and understand why, despite the opportunity to learn people make a different choice.

So with education, so with religious instruction. In a democracy people have a RIGHT to have a different view than you or Ms Wallace. This respect for the views of others is why Ms Wallace can have her article published!my view!


Free_Thinking_Atheist 4 years, 1 month ago

Nicely written and i couldn't agree more on both issues. jt's time to level the playing field. for to long we have been living in an echo chamber....no more.


Free_Thinking_Atheist 4 years, 1 month ago

Oh, and majority on any issue doesn't make them correct. there was a time when the majority believed the sun went around the earth.


Sign in to comment