Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Charitable Non-Profit Kiva Under Fire for Support of Opus Dei University in Kenya

A few years ago, a reader of Bilgrimage whom I greatly esteem recommended the organization Kiva to me. She's a first-rate human being, a practicing Catholic, a lay Franciscan, who is married to another woman and does a great deal to assist those in need. As the "about" page on Kiva's website states, the organization's mission is "to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty." Kiva invites people interested in their mission to give loans to people throughout the world, all in dire need of a helping hand, for all sorts of projects ranging from education to business ventures to home repairs. 

In the several years in which Steve and I have been assisting Kiva in its mission, we've made 43 loans amounting to some $1,100--loans Steve has largely funded, since I have no job and no regular income. We have been delighted to participate in this work, and I've given Kiva credits to friends and family members as gifts, and have invited others to support Kiva. When Steve's ultra-conservative Catholic family members have told us we ought to be concerned about the poor rather than selfishly agitating for gay rights (for our own selfish benefit, they claim), I've sent them information about Kiva and told them why we support the group.

Soon after I began assisting Kiva's mission, I joined its GLBT lending group. The group has been one of the most active at the Kiva site, collectively lending very large amounts of money to people around the world, and has been a joy to work with. Daily, I receive messages via that group from LGBT people and LGBT allies in many places in the world, who are concerned to help build a better world for everyone. Some of these people have sent me personal messages via Kiva. They're first-rate human beings who challenge me to become a better person.

I've been particularly inspired by the insistence of many members of the GLBT group that we should focus on lending money to people in areas of the planet where homophobic laws and attitudes are a real problem--in Uganda, for instance, or in some of the Islamic nations of the globe. Why should the struggling people of those areas be punished for their government's or their culture's prejudice, group members have argued? If we withhold funds from people in these regions, we become no better than the governments and religious communities that are stirring homophobia in these places.

And then in the recent past, the following happened: Kiva chose to support an Opus Dei university in Kenya, Strathmore University. After Kiva made that choice, members of the GLBT group and of several other groups at Kiva began to ask searching questions about Kiva's choice to support an Opus Dei-run institution. People pointed out that Opus Dei is one of the chief organizations worldwide offering financial and other support to organizations like the National Organization for Marriage that fight tooth and nail to attack the gay community and remove rights from gay and lesbian people.

Members of the GLBT group at Kiva and of other groups there put their searching questions to the folks who run Kiva, asking whether Kiva had done due diligence before it decided to support an Opus Dei-founded university, whether it understood before it allied itself with Opus Dei precisely what Opus Dei does and what Opus Dei's agenda re: gay rights and women's rights is, etc.

For many of us, the responses of Kiva's leaders to these questions have been woefully inadequate, and many of us have now begun to stop our loans in support of Kiva's mission, and to withdraw the funds we've invested in Kiva. I'm among those who have taken these steps. As I've told the members of the GLBT group in messages to the group, I cannot in conscience support Opus Dei in any way at all, due to its anti-gay and anti-woman agenda. And I find the response of Kiva's questions about its choice to support an Opus Dei organization insulting, totally lacking in transparency. 

If Kiva's top leaders are unwilling to respond in a more transparent way to the valid questions many Kiva supporters are asking about their support of Strathmore, I see no other way to make my voice heard now than by withdrawing my funding support. And now the discussion of these issues has gone beyond the boundaries of the Kiva lending groups themselves. Yesterday, for South Florida Gay News, Tony Adams explains what's going on in this controversy about Kiva and Opus Dei. And at Daily Kos, another member of the GLBT group, Beverly Woods, also sums up the story.

I'm posting the preceding two links to make readers of Bilgrimage aware of what's going on right now with Kiva, and of the questions that the GLBT lending group and other groups at Kiva are asking about its choice to support an Opus Dei-connected organization. Readers who want information about Opus Dei and why this secretive, powerful, wealthy organization concerns me and many other Catholics (and many people who aren't Catholic) can click on the label "Opus Dei" beneath this posting. On the connections of the rabidly anti-gay U.S. group National Organization for Marriage to Opus Dei, see this posting.

Later in the day: Tony Adams's article is now the top story at Bilerico.

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