Being originally from Northern Ireland, there is a special place in my heart for Bill Clinton. His particular interest in the sectarian conflict in Ireland changed history. During his Presidency, he had many close advisors who worked tirelessly to end the religiously based conflict that scarred all of us from that troubled little island.
My global LGBT reconciliation work has its roots in these conflicts. Clinton sent Sen. George Mitchell as his special envoy to try to bring warring religious and political fanatics to share a future. Mitchell, one of America’s most experienced American politicians, described the mission as the most challenging of his political career.
In his memoirs, Mitchell describes what it was like to keep returning to a negotiating table where everyone was saying “no surrender.” The backroom politics were vicious. Mitchell describes it as “the 700 days of no’s and the one day of yes.” Clinton’s particular interest and commitment to the peace process was revealed when he personally telephoned every leading Northern Irish politician, knew them by name, and thanked them for the good work they had done together.
Repairing the world
President Clinton has made several major mistakes, including the U.S. handling of the genocide in Eastern Europe and Rwanda. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” also happened under his political watch, so it is interesting to watch a much more mature and even more brilliant former President take on the controversial issue of global LGBT rights.
His wife, Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, has been our strongest political advocate for decriminalizing homosexuality in 76 countries and defending our LGBT brothers and sisters from religious and political fanaticism.
The Clintons now have the opportunity to prevent an LGBT genocide, given the deep connection between criminalization of homosexuality and access to HIV prevention and treatment.
If we are lucky, we learn from our past mistakes and there is something redemptive in the President’s commitment to this cause. LGBT people are being infected in these 76 countries three times greater than their heterosexual counterparts. Religious organizations in these countries condone criminalization and will not ask deeper questions about how their theological viewpoints counter anything remotely close to faith based compassion. Dying from HIV when many deaths can still be prevented, is to avoid a quiet genocide of LGBT people and identify the process as a crime against humanity.
The Clintons commitment to end this kind of sectarian war on an international scale (where theology and politics create a deadly cocktail of state sanctioned violence for millions of responsible citizens) is good news. They have their work cut out from them, but given their track record in actually getting things done, this is good news for the global LGBT community and our allies.
Recently, Secretary Clinton visited Uganda to given an award to the LGBT leadership there, days before many of them were arrested and harassed at Kampala’s first Gay Pride Parade. If we are to bring everyone to the table and finally end this culture war, it will take world leaders like President Clinton and his extensive network to begin a deliberate negotiation process. It will involve many religious organizations who theologically justify discrimination against LGBT people globally as the last acceptable prejudice.
We will need many like George Mitchell to “lean into the wind” and work through the “no surrenders” to a “shared future.”
Thank you, President and Mrs. Clinton for your courageous and moral commitment to this cause. This is good news for many people.
RGOD2, written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, looks at faith and religion from an LGBT point of view. Ogle is known around the world for his work in support of LGBT rights and HIV-prevention efforts. He is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE.