The Church Jesus Built, German version

What Happens After Death?, German version

Is The Bible True?, German version

Heaven or Hell?, German version

Bible Prophecy, German version

Westerwelle visits conservative Saudi Arabia

January 20, 2010: In an interview one year ago, Germany's new foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, who is gay, said that if he were to become foreign minister, having "a relationship with a man" would not be a problem for his future international contacts. His visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this month was a major test of his ability to interact with representatives of conservative cultures.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries in the entire world. Strict adherence is paid to separation of the sexes, and homosexuals occasionally face death in extreme cases. With his visit in Riad it appears that Westerwelle has shown that a gay politician can represent German interests in the Muslim world, providing an answer to observers in Berlin who wondered what the outcome might be.

Westerwelle's visit to Saudi Arabia was the focus of special attention because of comments he had made prior to becoming Germany's foreign minister last fall. Westerwelle had suggested that Germany needed to be more active internationally in promoting equal rights, and he even demanded that foreign aid be canceled for countries where homosexuals face the death penalty and women do not have the right to vote.

It is not difficult to make such statements when your seat in parliament is on the opposition side of the aisle. It becomes a challenge to repeat them publicly once you are in power, especially on a visit to a conservative foreign country as an official representative of your government. A public plea in Riad for more tolerance for the gay community would have been a scandal and damaged German-Saudi relations. But Westerwelle would also have lost credibility at home if he had said nothing at all. So the language of diplomacy came into play.

At a joint press conference with Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud, Westerwelle emphasized that there had been some differences of opinion during their bilateral meeting. According to Westerwell, human rights and religious plurality were among the subjects discussed. Prince Saud replied by saying that the world was well served by differences based on different value systems. Everyone present for the press conference knew what was being talked about even if the subject itself was not mentioned directly.

Westerwelle's successful visit to Saudi Arabia doesn't mean that his personal lifestyle will never be a source of concern for his diplomatic hosts. Prior to visiting Italy after becoming foreign minister he had asked whether it would be a problem for his male friend to accompany him on the trip. In preparation for his visit to Turkey, the German foreign ministry had asked German diplomats in Turkey the same question. Having Westerwelle's male friend along for the trip to Ankara would have caused protocol problems for Turkey's conservative government in a predominantly Islamic country. German diplomats informed their Turkish colleagues that their new foreign minister would be traveling by himself on his visit to Turkey. Westerwelle is not only gay, but also a pragmatist.


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Gospel of the Kingdom, German version

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