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Anderson saga needs clarity

 

David Magang           

VIEW FROM MANA HOUSE

The deportation of the homophobic and roundly vexatious American clergyman Steven Anderson on the instructions of President Ian Khama on Tuesday September 20th hardly elicited my sympathy. What I found mystifying in the extreme was why he was given the green light to cross into the country in the first place, when other countries such as the UK and neighbouring South Africa only recently red-flagged him and well before he set foot on their territory. Whereas worthy men such as Aliko Dangote are kept well at bay practically on a whim, the dregs of society personified in Anderson are eagerly given the benefit of the doubt. The irony boggles the mind. 

According to press reports, Anderson arrived in Botswana on Thursday September 15th to commission a branch of his Arizona-based Faithful World Baptist Church, a sect he founded in December 2005. On Sunday, he even spoke from the pulpit, punctuating the same anti-gay standpoint about which he so vehemently sounded off on GabzFM on the morning he was ejected from Botswana. Yet our law enforcement agents pounced only when he was heard on radio – six days too late.  Certainly, if he hadn’t featured on Breakfast With Reg, he would still be doing the rounds in Gaborone (he said he was smitten by the Arizona-like country weather-wise and by its clubbable and crime-averse people), spewing forth his signature prejudice with wild abandon. 

As far removed as he is from our part of the world, Anderson is not some obscure oddball.  The unorthodox pastor hit the acmes of notoriety in July this year when he toasted to the massacre of 49 people by a deranged gunman in Orlando, Florida. Anderson’s twisted logic, which ignited widespread anger, was that the victims got their just desserts because they were patrons of a gay night club.  “The good news is that there’s 50 less paedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and paedophiles,” he ranted in a 4-minute video-taped mini-sermon dedicated to saluting just this atrocity.

Rather than exult at the fact that there were 53 survivors in the same carnage as any normal human being should, Anderson actually piled on the scorn, miffed that they continued to draw breath when government should by rights have subjected them to lethal injection for their morally indefensible sexual orientation. “The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive,” he regretted. Their inevitable doom he gloatingly pronounced thus: “Fifty people in a gay bar that got shot up, they were gonna die of AIDS, and syphilis, and whatever else. They were all gonna die early, anyway, because homosexuals have a 20-year shorter life-span than normal people, anyway …”

Such vitriol, such odious views, stem not from the voice of sanity but from that of a lunatic and that is putting it mildly.

 

MAN OF GOD WITH ACERBIC TONGUE?

 

For a man who professes to be a rule-abiding Christian chapter and verse, Steven Anderson’s gay-bashing diatribes are not entirely baseless as he points to a scripture in the King James corpus – the only version of the Bible he calls "holy" and permits in his church.  What rankles with me is his strident tone and the abhorrent lengths to which he goes in voicing a sense of disgust. 

In an August 16 profanity-laced sermon he titled, “I Hate Obama”, Anderson hurled opprobrium at the president for exhibiting a “ungodly” tolerance for homosexuals, supporting abortion rights, and the consequent “lewdness” he had supposedly foisted on American society. “When I go to bed tonight,” he thundered, “I’m going to pray that Barack Obama goes to Hell.” He is also said to have told a gay radio host that, “If you are homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer”.    

The Mail & Guardian reports that a 59-year-old man who came to listen to Anderson’s sermon at the same church he had come to officially open here in Gaborone was angrily tossed from pillar to post by Anderson’s no-nonsense escorts for refusing to make a mandatory declaration of sexual orientation at the entrance. He was roughed up right in the precincts of the “House of God” when he should have been treated with a sufferance and indulgence which sets Christianity apart from most other faiths. On top of that, he was accused of “having AIDS” and berated for his “AIDS-filled mouth” as he was to all intents and purposes a homosexual. 

Listening to a podcast of the GabzFM debate, I was staggered by Anderson’s brashness and effrontery. Referring to one of the discussants, an advocate for gay rights, he said, on mere assumption, that, “He has sex with little boys and strangers — and, if you have not done it yet, you will do it in future.” A reverend who also participated in the debate later described his encounter with the foul-mouthed Anderson as, “very, very tense. It was like being in a physical fight. At one point, Anderson pushed his finger against my forehead and called me a fake pastor.”

Maybe Anderson did not exactly go beyond the pale after all. The very icons and paragons of the Christian faith haven’t been particularly restrained in venting outrage. Jesus called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (MATTHEW 23:33). John the Baptist made a hobby of openly castigating King Herod Antipas as an “adulterer” (MATTHEW 14:1-13). The sons of Zebedee asked Jesus to rain down a firestorm blaze on those who resisted the gospel (LUKE 9:54). In a letter to the Church at Galatia, the great Apostle Paul minced no words when he wrote, “I wish that those who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!” (GALATIANS 5:12). But that is a different juncture in history with its own cultural mores and eccentricities we’re not under obligation to adopt in our day and age: in modern-day Christendom, it is an a priori assumption that a so-called Man of God ought to be measured in his rhetoric, that he should guard against intemperate and inflammatory outbursts. 

 

A SCRAPPY TEMPERAMENT

 

Yet the one thing we should be wary of is not to accord Steven Anderson, a wily character if there was one, a publicity platform he craves but which he does not remotely merit.     It is clear to   me that the main reason he’s gone out of his way to court headline-grabbing controversy stems from a desperate attempt to shore up his pitiful membership  numbers.

I gather that his church, which doubles as the setting for his fire alarm installation business, operates out of an office space in a strip mall. When it is a full house, the office-cum-church    is peopled by no more than 150 congregants, about 30 of whom are children.

Although he has never been to seminary and holds no theological credentials of any sort, Anderson boasts, on his website, that he has “well over 140 chapters of the Bible memorised word-for-word, including approximately half of the New Testament”. One of the scriptures that he has so loyally committed to heart and fulfilled to the letter is the enjoinder to “be fruitful and multiply”. At only age 35 and having married at age 20, Anderson parades a brood of 9 children, some of whom look like sets of twins when they are not. 

Whereas one of the beatitudes in Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount says, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”, Anderson is far from passive, acquiescent, or compliant. To the contrary, he is belligerent, defiant, and intransigent. In April 2009, a US newspaper reported that when border patrol agents flagged him down and demanded that they search his car, he refused either to roll down the windows or get out of his car, triggering a 90-minute stand-off that only ended when police smashed the window, yanked him out of the car, and shocked him with tasers in a bid to tame him.

Anderson clearly is no type to offer the other cheek when push comes to shove. He’s lucky he’s lily-white: if he was black, he would have been pumped full of lead instead of being simply tasered as that is America’s newly-fangled way of waging a pogrom against the black population. 

 

MAN, WHO MADE YOU JUDGE OVER FELLOW MAN?

 

In Steven Anderson’s tragicomic world, a homosexual belongs to the gallows, the firing squad, the gas chamber, the electric chair. They all must be rounded up as a matter of routine, led to the market place in manacles, and pelted with stones till they are reduced to a pulp for making a Sodom and Gomorrah of the society they adulterate.   “The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers but not for homosexuals,” he bellows.

Anderson points to LEVITICUS 20:13 as his rallying cry. It says, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.”  But scripture should not be cherry-picked: it must be rigorously cross-checked with what other scriptures assert in similar  situations in light of the Lord’s admonition that under the New Covenant, we’re not under the draconian, eye-for-an-eye Old Covenant jurisprudence (MATTHEW 5:38).  As important, it must be properly contextualised. One has to take into account the theocratic paradigms of Old Testament systems of rule with their emphasis on puritanical obedience in that  age of virtual serdom.

Anderson must be reminded that ours is a dispensation in which the law of grace supersedes that of Shariah-like retributive justice.  A story is told in JOHN 8:3-11, whereby the Pharisees dragged before Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. According to the Torah, the Law of Moses, she was supposed to be stoned to death. Jesus first reacted by drawing a line in the sand, then dared any single one of the Pharisaic mob to cast the first stone at her if he himself had never indulged in at least one act of immorality before.  Everybody was chastened: they all slunk away one by one, with their heads hanging in shame.

Anderson ought to take cognisant of the truism that fallible man is not competent to judge fellow man: only God is. Saint James underscored this point when he said, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?” (JAMES 4:12).

 

GOVERNMENT MUST CLEAR AMBIGUITIES

 

That said, I wish to seek clarity from the relevant authorities on one or two things that concern me in the context of the Anderson expulsion.

First, was Anderson forewarned by government before he set foot in the country that Botswana was no place for his incendiary anti-gay mouth-offs? Was he lured into an ambush with a view to make him provide the proverbial rope with which to hang himself? For if I recall correctly, in 2014 our Labour and Home Affairs minister did serve timely notice on Pastor Lesego Daniel of Rabboni Centre Ministries in Ga-Rankuwa, Gauteng Province, that if he coaxed Batswana into gorging on fresh, churchyard grass as he was in the habit of doing in his home country to his own flock, he would be thrown out of the country forthwith.

Second, exactly what is government’s position at present on “unnatural” sexual acts? Sections 164, 165, and 167 of the Penal Code  plainly  makes homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, etc,  criminal offenses that may attract jail sentences of between 5 to 7 years. Even   Justice Terrence Rannoane, when he pronounced for the freedom of association viz–a-viz LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana)  in November 1914  did emphasise the fact that homosexuality nonetheless remained a transgression against the law.  The Penal Code,  along with  the prohibitively steep alcohol levy, may in all probability have emboldened Anderson to speak with the temerity he did against both homosexuals and local pastors who did not make a priority of preaching temperance. 

Thirdly and finally, when Anderson was booted out of the country, what specific clause spelt out his fate? In South Africa, when Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba   prevented Anderson from entering the country, he invoked Section 29 1 (d) of the Immigration Act which categorically  bars  anyone who is  “a member of or adherent to an organisation advocating the practice of racial hatred or social violence” from coming to South Africa. Does our law lay down in black and white a likewise clause?   

   

           

 

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.

The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.

A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.

He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.

They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.

Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.

‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.

Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.

He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.

Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.

Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.

Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.

A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul

The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people

The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]

With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

 

With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).

These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.

 

The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.

But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.

It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.

Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.

We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?

Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.

 

It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.

 

So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.”  Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.

Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)

The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.

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