Of Empty Tombs


They crucified my Savior upon a common cross.
They crucified my Savior upon a common cross.
They crucified my Savior upon a common cross,
And God’s grace will lead my spirit home.

    –“Christ Rose“, 18th-century African-American spiritual

The following story comes from the April 11, 2010 Associated Press newswire (not reprinted here in full for copyright reasons):

THIES, Senegal – Even death cannot stop the violence against gays in this corner of the world any more.

Madieye Diallo’s body had only been in the ground for a few hours when the mob descended on the weedy cemetery with shovels. They yanked out the corpse, spit on its torso, dragged it away and dumped it in front of the home of his elderly parents.

The scene of May 2, 2009 was filmed on a cell phone and the video sold at the market. It passed from phone to phone, sowing panic among gay men who say they now feel like hunted animals.

“I locked myself inside my room and didn’t come out for days,” says a 31-year-old gay friend of Diallo’s who is ill with HIV. “I’m afraid of what will happen to me after I die. Will my parents be able to bury me?”

A wave of intense homophobia is washing across Africa, where homosexuality is already illegal in at least 37 countries.

In the last year alone, gay men have been arrested in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for ‘repeat offenders.’ And in South Africa, the only country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

“Across many parts of Africa, we’ve seen a rise in homophobic violence,” says London-based gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell, whose organization tracks abuse against gays and lesbians in Africa. “It’s been steadily building for the last 10 years but has got markedly worse in the last year.”

To the long list of abuse meted out to suspected homosexuals in Africa, Senegal has added a new form of degradation — the desecration of their bodies.

In the past two years, at least four men suspected of being gay have been exhumed by angry mobs in cemeteries in Senegal. The violence is especially shocking because Senegal, unlike other countries in the region, is considered a model of tolerance….


The article goes on to say that the current backlash in Senegal began in 2008 when a tabloid published pictures of a clandestine gay wedding. Suspected gays were arrested and tortured. Worsening economic conditions also fueled the search for a scapegoat, Cheikh Ibrahima Niang, a professor of social anthropology at Senegal’s largest university, told the AP reporter.

…The crackdown also coincided with spiraling food prices. Niang says political and religious leaders saw an easy way to reach constituents through the inflammatory topic of homosexuality.
“They found a way to explain the difficulties people are facing as a deviation from religious life,” says Niang. “So if people are poor — it’s because there are prostitutes in the street. If they don’t have enough to eat, it’s because there are homosexuals.”


Muslim imams preached in favor of killing gays. The same sentiments were published in Senegalese newspapers and magazines. Some people evidently took the exhortations to heart:

…Around this time, in May 2008, a middle-aged man called Serigne Mbaye fell ill and died in a suburb of Dakar.

His children tried to bury him in his village but were turned back from the cemetery because of widespread rumors that he was gay. His sons drove his body around trying to find a cemetery that would accept him. They were finally forced to bury him on the side of a road, using their own hands to dig a hole, according to media reports.

The grave was too shallow and the wind blew away the dirt. When the decomposing body was later discovered, Mbaye’s children were arrested and charged with improperly burying their father.

In the town of Kaolack three months later, residents exhumed the grave of another man believed to be gay. In November 2008, residents in Pikine removed a corpse from a mosque of another suspected homosexual and left it on the side of the road….

…Among the people who appeared in the photograph published from the gay wedding was a young man in his 30s from Thies. He was an activist and a leader of a gay organization called And Ligay, meaning “Working together,” which he ran out of his parents’ house.

He was HIV-positive and on medication.

When the tabloid published the photograph, Diallo went into hiding, according to a close friend who asked not to be named because he too is gay. Unable to go to the doctor, Diallo stopped taking his anti-retrovirals. By the spring of 2009, he was so ill that his family checked him into St. Jean de Dieu, a Catholic hospital in downtown Thies, says the friend.

He was in a coma when he died at 5:50 a.m. on May 2, 2009, according to the hospital’s records. Although the hospital has a unit dedicated to treating HIV patients, the young man’s family never disclosed his illness, according to the doctor in charge.

Several gay friends tried to see Diallo in the hospital but were told to stay away by his family, says the friend.

When the AP tried to speak to Diallo’s elderly father at his shop on the main thoroughfare in Thies, his other children demanded the reporter leave. One sister covered her face and sobbed. Another said, “There are no homosexuals here.”

Hours after he died, his family took Diallo’s body to a nearby mosque, where custom holds the corpse should be bathed and wrapped in a white cloth. Before the family could bathe him, news reached the mosque that Diallo was gay and they were chased out, says the dead man’s friend. His relatives hastily wrapped him in a sheet and headed to the cemetery, where they carried him past the home of Babacar Sene.

“A man that’s known as being a homosexual can’t be buried in a cemetery. His body needs to be thrown away like trash,” says Sene. “His parents knew that he was gay and they did nothing about it. So when he died we wanted to make sure he was punished.”


Where in this story is the Savior who was crucified? On which side do you think you’ll find him?

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