Dear Mr. President,
With all due respect, I would like to call you out on your insensitive remarks on the LGBT community. The last time I checked, we were living in 2020 where 193 countries are signatories to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), with Burundi being one of them. Protecting the rights of all citizens, irrespective of age, ethnicity, religion, disability, race, gender identification, or sexual orientation, is a key part of that agreement.
Respecting all people and their rights isn’t even about what world we live in. it is not time-bound as being tolerant towards each other is taught by the Bible itself:
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” Colossians 3:11-13.
Since you are so adamant that COVID-19 and AIDS are a curse linked to homosexuality, let me give you a little lesson in history. It was in 1963—only a year after independence from Belgium—that we saw thousands of Burundians being forced to leave their homes and flee to neighboring Rwanda. Why were they forced to leave Burundi? No, it wasn’t homosexuality or the curse brought onto the people by it. Instead, it was ethnic violence that broke out due to the differences between the Tutsi and Hutu communities.
Fast forward 10 years and we had the bloodiest event in Burundi’s history. Over a hundred thousand people were massacred by security forces working under the government. Why were they killed? Because of a lack of tolerance, racism, and a leadership that excluded a part of people by promoting regionalism.
The same happened again during a bloody civil war that lasted 13 years and claimed the lives of 300,000 people. The violence only ended after an Arusha peace agreement was signed under international pressure. However, peace is still not restored in Burundi, where independent observers have reported crimes and mass atrocities against humanity.
Burundi is a nation plagued by seasonal violence and widespread poverty. Recurrences of communal violence date back to the liberation movement of the 1960s. These events left a profound effect on the people that is still felt today, including constant fear of assault, social division, indiscriminate violence and continued struggles for resources and political power.
In a country where we already have ethnic divides that have caused thousands of deaths, can we afford to create more differences amongst the people? As someone deeply concerned about the current state of affairs in Burundi, I would like to tell you that you are playing with fire by passing insensitive and inciting remarks about the LGBT people. This will only create more hate and chaos in a country that is already suffering from so much.
Homophobia and the social exclusion of LGBT people have an impact on their physical and mental health. This is mostly due to a lack of opportunities and quality care available to these people because of society’s negative and often hostile attitude towards them. Needless to say, this impacts their families, emotionally, as well as, financially. LGBT people deserve the same opportunities and respect as everyone else—it is their basic human right.
On a parting note, I would like to bring to your knowledge that the first country to become COVID-19 free was New Zealand—a country that has not only legalized same-sex marriage but also fights for LGBT rights across the globe. Its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is known for her empathy, tolerance, human rights activism, and down to earth nature. Perhaps, you should take a leaf out of her book instead of blaming the LGBT people for something that is no fault of theirs.
I hope and pray that my words don’t fall on deaf ears.