NAIROBI, Kenya — President Barack Obama heads to Kenya this week for a global economic summit. It will be Obama’s first visit as president to his father’s homeland.
While some hope the trip will bring closer ties between our two countries, there’s one subject many Kenyans don’t want the president to talk about: gay rights and same-sex marriage.
The streets are already buzzing in anticipation of his arrival, with polls showing Obama enjoys widespread popularity among Kenyans.
“I think this is a guy who really appreciates his roots,” said one resident of the capital city.
“Because he is our brother, we welcome him,” Peter, from Nairobi, said.
The president’s visit, however, is not without controversy.
Seven hundred Kenyan evangelical pastors have written an open letter asking the president not to come to their country and talk about the gay agenda.
Mark Kariuki is the key architect of that letter. He leads an alliance representing 38,000 churches and 10 million Kenyan Christians.
“We do not want him to come and talk on homosexuality in Kenya or push us to accepting that which is against our faith and culture,” Kariuki said.
Kariuki welcomes the president’s visit but says leave “the gay talk” in America.
“Let him talk about development; let him talk about cooperation; let him talk about the long-time relationship Kenya has had with America,” he said. “But about our beliefs and culture– keep off!”
Obama has used previous trips to Africa to urge governments to respect gay rights. Kariuki said the open letter is a warning to the president.
“The family is the strength of a nation. If the family is destroyed, then the nation is destroyed,” he said. “So we don’t want to open doors for our nation to be destroyed!”
Pro-family activists took to the streets of Nairobi this month, urging President Obama to avoid the subject when he visits.
“Since Obama has a Kenyan descent, I think he should be more familiar with our culture. Africa has a conservative culture,” said one of the participants in the pro-family rally.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and 37 other African countries. In fact, Kenya’s penal code says any individual “who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” can face 14 years jail time.
Bishop Kariuki said he’ll fight to keep homosexuality a crime in Kenya.
“It is an abomination to God. Kenya is 82 percent Christian. So, as far as our conviction and our faith are concerned it is not a natural thing,” he said.
Top Kenyan politicians are also weighing in.
“God did not create man and woman so that men would marry men and women marry women,” the country’s deputy president is quoted saying.
Another lawmaker warned, “We shall tell him to shut up and go home” if he talks about gay rights.
After June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in America, one Kenyan politician said allowing such a thing in her country would open “floodgates of evil synonymous with the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Many citizens have also taken to Twitter using the hashtag #KenyansMessageToObama to warn the president about spreading his gay agenda beyond America’s shores.
Meanwhile, Bishop Kariuki said the president is destroying America with his support for gay marriage.
“I believe that with all my heart with that agenda he is ruining America because America has been known as a Christian nation,” he said. “It has been known as a nation that has sent missionaries out. Now it is a different nation all together because it is an agenda against God!”