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Conference spurs debate

SOME 30 people gathered on Pilárikova Street in Bratislava to show their disapproval of violence committed against homosexuals in Uganda as the Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson spoke nearby on March 4. Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was among the favourites in the last papal vote. He was speaking at an International Conference called “The Catholic Church and Human Rights”.

SOME 30 people gathered on Pilárikova Street in Bratislava to show their disapproval of violence committed against homosexuals in Uganda as the Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson spoke nearby on March 4. Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was among the favourites in the last papal vote. He was speaking at an International Conference called “The Catholic Church and Human Rights”.

According to human rights activists, Turkson has repeatedly downplayed crimes against homosexuals. The cardinal responded that he supports the protest against the laws sending homosexuals to prison, adding that also the punishments should be milder. He, however, posed a question as to whether homosexuality can be defined as a human right, the Sme daily reported.

“We’re here because there’s a conference with human rights in its title, organised by the Catholic Church, but one of the speakers is a cardinal who has repeatedly downplayed the violence – including murders of gays – in Uganda, by referring to culture and tradition,” said one of the protest organisers, Peter Weisenbacher, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

He added that he and his fellow protesters wanted to debate at the conference, for which they duly registered. The Conference of Bishops of Slovakia (KBS) first refused to register them, and later refused their entry, arguing that capacity was full.

In his speech, Turkson said that the Catholic Church is seriously concerned when ideology can somehow create a new human right.

“Healthy realism is the basis of human rights,” Turkson said, as quoted by TASR. “When a separation occurs between reality and what is being required as a so-called new human right, there’s a threat of new interpretations of the existing dictionary of human rights.”

As an example, he pointed to recent developments in Belgium, where he said new legislation on euthanasia allows children to ask for a voluntary death, or the use of the term gender in order to indicate that sex is not biologically given as male and female, but as a social construct or a product of what individuals think or feel.

Turkson also said in his speech that the Church defends everyone’s right to life and physical safety, regardless of any “sexual difference” they may feel.

Romana Schlesinger, spokeswoman for the Queer Leaders Forum, said that more protests are planned, but they will take place only after the presidential election in Slovakia. Protests will target efforts to alter the constitution to define marriage as a bond between a man and a woman.

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