Gay Activists ‘chased away’ from Church Meet

Continent-wide upsurge in homophobia a tragedy – Inclusive and Affirming Ministries

In the wake of a continent-wide upsurge in homophobia with Zimbabwe’s leaders Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai being the most recent to put there voices to it, Rev. Pieter Oberholzer and gay Christian activist, Victor Mukasa, were chased away “like lepers” from a consultative meeting on homosexuality held on 16th March in Malawi. They’ve been attending on invitation of secretary-general Canaan Phiri of the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), who organised the event.

Oberholzer and Mukasa spoke of their humiliation being stereotyped in the “vilest way” by church leaders. “It was a horrible experience,” says Mukasa, an Ugandan gay activist who lives in Cape Town. “I am saddened that I’ve been treated by people of God as the enemy.” Lutheran Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe who chairs the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), said the meeting intended to “brainstorm issues of homosexuality, lesbians and Aids and let the church take a position on it. The meeting was called in order for churches to understand the issue,” Homosexuality and sex are still taboo subjects in Malawi, where gays operate underground for fear of prosecution and open hostility from people. This is the first time ever a meeting to debate homosexuality was held in Malawi.

Phiri said: “We want our pastors to be informed on issues of homosexuality. When we know the background to gays, we can’t pretend they do not exist,” He expressed the hope that Oberholzer and Mukasa’s witness would have shed light on the many misunderstandings that exist around homosexuality. The MCC meeting spent two hours on the first morning of their consultation deliberating whether they could allow the testimony of Oberholzer and Mukasa. They later elected to expel them. The meeting resolved to uphold Malawi’s homophobic stance against gays and lesbians describing homosexuality as “sinful”.

A MCC communique issued at the end of the symposium however reads: “We


recognise the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings.” The church leaders’ statement comes in the wake of the continued detention of Malawi’s first openly gay couple who have been arrested after holding an engagement ceremony in Blantyre end last year.


Oberholzer heads up “I AM” (Inclusive and Affriming Ministries), a South African based organisation that seeks to promote dialogue on sexual orientation within churches. “I AM” held a 1st African Dialogue on Christian Faith and Sexuality in November 2009 in Stellenbosch, attended by clergy and LGBTI participants from 13 African countries.

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