04 May 2023

Dialogue helps – but never on the basis of exclusion

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In the Dutch newspaper NRC of May 1, 2023, Mensen met een Missie is mentioned in the article ‘Plan voor strenge lhbti-wet wakkert homohaat in Oeganda nog verder aan’ (Plan for strict LGBTI law further fuels homophobia in Uganda). Mensen met een Missie works with a diverse and multifaceted network of organisations and people all over the world. We consider this diversity to be a strength. One of the partners in the network of Mensen met een Missie is the development cooperation office of one of the dioceses of the Church of Uganda. Together with this organisation we work to promote the rights of women and young people in Uganda.

Our work stems from the belief that every person counts. This also applies to people from the LGBTQI+ community. We therefore hereby clearly speak out against the discrimination, hatred and violence that many gay, lesbian, queer and trans people experience and endure on a daily basis. In all the countries we work in, including the Netherlands.

At the same time: we also believe that dialogue helps. In many different places in the world we focus on dialogue to bring together people who would normally oppose each other. When you talk to ‘the other’, you can find out what moves them. And sometimes you’ll even find that you are not that different at all, because you are both human.

Our experience tells us that violence is lurking in places where entrenched beliefs about ‘the other’ are no longer questioned and where power relations have become lopsided. We aim to prevent violence. Our cooperation with religious institutions and religious actors gives us an immense head start in this regard.

Worldwide, billions of people feel connected to a religion or religious community, and religious leaders and their statements are of great significance to these people. Unfortunately, this power is sometimes abused; the examples of religious beliefs leading to the exclusion of certain groups are numerous. The subject of LGBTQI+ in particular, often leads to tension, also in our cooperation with religious leaders.

At the same time, we also see the enormous potential. By working together with religious leaders and organizations, we use their influence to promote the rights of women, youth and (religious) minorities, to prevent conflicts and radicalisation, and to promote peaceful coexistence. And this has a noticeable effect.

We are also very aware of the position of power that we hold as an organisation. This means that we want to be cautious and guarded in imposing our standards on others. And no matter how you look at it: the colonial history of our country plays a major role in this. Power is still not distributed fairly worldwide, and that influences positions, reactions and interpretations in, for example, the current LGBTQI+ discussion in Uganda. This also presents us as an organisation with a considerable challenge.

In recent months, we as an organisation have been challenged to take a very critical look at where we set our limits. Calling for, and inciting violence is that limit.

Whenever we approach that limit, it saddens us. Especially because we believe so strongly that our contribution to peaceful and just societies lies in facilitating dialogue. Striving for a peaceful society however, means that everyone can participate and be themselves. And a just society can never go together with the exclusion of certain groups. That is the basis of our work. And that is why we are in continuous discussion with our partners worldwide about what inclusivity and tolerance mean on the path to a peaceful society.