|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Malawian Civil Society Organisations have lashed out at religious leaders in support of the new bill outlawing lesbianism in Malawi, stating, “Christianity as a religion should not be used to alienate diversity, people in Malawi come from different backgrounds and have different beliefs and traditions.” This, after Malawian Council of Churches (MCC) Chairperson Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe said same-sex practices “threaten the family unit” and “contradict Malawi’s rich traditions, culture and its spirituality as a God fearing nation.”
In a joint statement the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), together with the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) and the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or affected by HIV and AIDS (MANELERA), said they find the statements by the MCC “misleading”, since Malawi is a secular and not a religious state.
“In Malawi, the law is not based on religious principles, the Malawi Constitution which is the supreme law of the land, upholds values of universality of human rights which provides the right to non-discrimination for everyone including sexual minorities”, the statement reads.
A secular state is a concept whereby a state or country asserts to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion and claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion or non religion.
“Church leaders must also remember that they have the duty to promote love and tolerance among people of different religions, cultures and beliefs. They should not be the first to cast the stone of hate. We are all children of God, regardless of our personal circumstances”, the statement further said.
In February this year Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika passed a Bill outlawing lesbianism, hugely condemned human rights defenders who said it threatens the right to privacy.
Sex between men is already a punishable offence in Malawi’s penal code.
“We uphold the current Penal Code provisions that criminalise homosexual acts and or practices, even though they aim to bring about reform, the Church should treat practicing and self-affirming homosexuals as sinners just as any other persons engaged in the persistent, unrepentant acts of sin. They should be loved and ministered to. The church therefore must accompany the homosexuals in their struggle to transform their lives”, says the MCC.
Hitting back, Civil Society Organisations said, “As a country we have not agreed on what exactly constitutes Malawian culture. It is therefore fallacious and extremely unfair to impose beliefs or regulate society using beliefs from one group. The Church and its leadership are expected to imitate Jesus Christ in their pastoral work. Jesus spent his whole life compassionately embracing a diverse range of personalities, without promoting hatred, discrimination and persecution.”
“If it’s an issue of morality, then let the people choose what is moral to them. Having a different sexual orientation other than heterosexual is not a crime. The law is clear, people must not be discriminated because of their sexuality or beliefs”, CHRR Executive Director Undule Mwakasungura, told Nyasa Times.
Meanwhile Anglican Bishop Masala has also lashed out at the MCC calling for a more “generous pastoral response.”
African Activist blog state that Bishop Brightson Malasa stated that “finger-pointing, condemnation and discrimination” that the church allow to groups such as sex workers and homosexuals, encourages the spread of HIV and Aids, speaking at a recent two-day religious leaders meeting for at risk groups in Malawi.