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REVIEW | 'Seeking Sanctuary' should be a prescribed reading in theology courses

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A member of the community leaves the high court in Nairobi, Kenya, after the judge declined to scrap laws criminalising homosexuality. Residents of the Kakuma Refugee Camp target LGBTQIA+ people in the camp. (Photograph by Tony Karumba/ AFP)
A member of the community leaves the high court in Nairobi, Kenya, after the judge declined to scrap laws criminalising homosexuality. Residents of the Kakuma Refugee Camp target LGBTQIA+ people in the camp. (Photograph by Tony Karumba/ AFP)

Seeking Sanctuary: Stories of Faith, Sexuality and Migration, edited by John Marnell, explores LGBTI immigrants' encounter with faith as a resource for coping with violence brought about by religious institutions.

Chapter 2, in particular, deepened my belief that LGBTI bodies are like canaries in a mineshaft: an advance warning of troubles approaching everyone else. There, Marnell discusses the politicisation of faith by politicians who hide their failures under holier-than-thou religiosity.  

This would indirectly shed light on why spikes in homophobic rhetoric are often followed by service delivery failures and protests. In Ghana, for example, the proposal of anti-LGBTI legislation coincided with rallies against President Nana Akufo-Addo's re-election. Likewise, a spate of hate crimes in South Africa coincided with the July riots. Our Constitution shields us from state-sponsored violence, but that obscures how government officials practically condone homophobic violence in particular and with that, violence in general.  

Marnell elicits from the 14 migrants their stories of moving to South Africa and, despite problems, their finding support at the LGBT Ministry at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. By broadening the discussion to centre those at the margins of our society, Marnell shows a continuity between our government's indifference to human rights violations elsewhere and the escalation of violence here. You'll be outraged, but not surprised, at Home Affairs officials' malicious ignorance. 


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