Sunday, 21 March 2010

Malawi: Visiting gay Christians speak of harassment at Malawi church meet

The Pharisees Turn Away from Christ - medieval...Image by chrisjohnbeckett via Flickr
Source: Pana

Three gay Christians, who were invited to attend a consultative meeting on contemporary issues - including homosexuality - organised by the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), have spoken of their horror at being bad-mouthed by pastors and hounded out of the meeting.

"It was a horrible experience," recalled Victor Mukasa, a Ugandan gay activist also known as "Juliet". "I am saddened that they regarded me as an enemy."

Mukasa, an Ugandan gay rights activist, said he expected pastors as men of God to receive him with compassion and understanding but he was disappointed at the church leaders' violent reaction to their presence.

"They literally chased us from the conference despite being invited," he said.

A Zambia openly gay Christian Chivuli Ukwimi and a South African gay pastor, the Reverend Pieter Oberholzer, were also invited to the meeting and were equally hounded away.
Ukwimi described the homophobic pastors as the latter- day "Pharisees" capable of ostracising Jesus for associating with outcasts.
MCC, a grouping of protestant churches in Malawi, organised the meeting in the southern resort town of Mangochi "to understand contemporary issues like homosexuality and come up with a common stand as churches," according to MCC Chairman Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe.

But despite being invited, the presence of the three openly gay Christians reviled most of the assembled pastors, with some of them dubbing them "sinners and demons".

Others were, however, more accommodating, pleading with the militant ones to all ow the gay guests to state their case for the church leaders to understand homosexuality.

But the majority thought the trio wee persona non grata to the symposium and elected to expel them.

A visibly shattered Ukwimi described the homophobic pastors as the latter- day "Pharisees" capable of ostracising Jesus for associating with outcasts.

"It's sad," he said. Oberholzer said he was born gay and nothing - including shock therapy - could disabuse him of his sexual orientation. He said it was alarming for his life to be compared to prostitution.

But the meeting resolved to uphold Malawi's homophobic stance against gays and lesbians describing homosexuality as "sinful".

"We recognise the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings," read the MCM communique issued last Thursday at the end of the symposium.

"But these (human rights) go with corresponding duties and responsibilities."

The church leaders' statement comes in the wake of continued detention of Malawi's first openly gay couple.

The couple, Steve Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested on 27 December after holding an engagement ceremony in Blantyre ahead of their planned wedding in the new year.

Their arrest has riled Western gay rights activists and politicians with some donor agencies and countries threatening to review Malawi's governance score because in the wake of the arrest.

Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa is on Monday scheduled to state whether the couple has a case to answer.

If they are found with a case to answer they are expected to enter their defence but if they will be found with no case they will be released immediately.
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