Malawi Human Rights Advocates Call Out Catholic Bishops on LGBT Issues

Two prominent human rights activists in Malawi have strongly criticized recent statements made by a group representing some of Africa’s Catholic bishops conferences which cast lesbian and gay people in a negative light.

Timothy Mtambo

According to The Maravi Post, Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, wrote in their column in Malwai’s Weekend Nation, that the Catholic Church ““should be the last to condemn people who did not choose their homosexual condition.”   Their comment was in response to statements made by the Association of Member Episcopal Conference in East Africa (AMECEA) which met in Malawi last month.

The AMECEA statement “strongly condemns same-sex unions and other deviations that go against human nature and natural law.” (Bondings 2.0’s report of that meeting, and another African association of Catholic bishops conferences meeting, can be read by clicking here.)

Gift Trapence

According to the Maravi Post, Mtambo and Trapence called on the bishops to live up to the Catholic Catechism’s call for non-discrimination of lesbian and gay people:

“[The Catechism] emphasises acceptance and tolerance, not condemnation. It is therefore strange that our African bishops are ignoring this text and promoting discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“They said the ‘refusal to accept people with homosexual tendencies within the Church has led to unspeakable conflict, brief and death on our continent,’ adding that there have been daily stories of gays being ‘harassed, threatened and even physically assaulted simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’ ”

Similar to our posting from yesterday on HIV/AIDS, the pair also noted that there is

“good evidence that the HIV epidemic hits harder where anti-gay laws and prejudice exist. Voices of reason and goodwill must speak out against this hatred and irrationality.”

Mtambo is the head of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation and Trapence is the head of the Centre for the Development of People.

In Malawi, a gay or lesbian person can face a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, though one report notes that the nation has recently placed a moratorium on arresting people because of sexual orientation.  Still, Malawi, a predominantly Christian nation, has very conservative views on homosexuality, which one advocate notes can be softened with proper education.  The Maravi Post quoted:

“[Billy] Mayaya, a member of the Civic and Political Platform, a network of church and rights groups, said it will be difficult for the gays activists to ;penetrate through’ because the ‘Malawi culture remains conservative.’ . . . .

“Mayaya says for the rights groups to win the fight, they need to change their strategy and launch a media blitz to ‘educate the masses about the need to repeal the laws for sexual minorities to enjoy their rights.’

“ ‘Secondly, the gays themselves must come out in the open to explain their plight and not fight from the shadows,”’Mayaya said.”

Trapence agreed with the need for education.  He noted that homosexuality is a

“contentious issue and a challenge in Malawi because people don’t have the right information about sexual minorities. . . . People and lawmakers need to understand the rights gays from an objective point of view. Malawi needs to remove all biases and prejudices against gays.”

That education must begin with the Catholic bishops of that nation, and many other nations.   Last month, when the Vatican’s Archbishop Vincent Paglia, who heads the Pontifical Council on the Family, addressed the conference, he referred to homosexuality only in terms of new conceptions of marriage.  He could have used the opportunity to educate the bishops on the Catechism’s call for accepting lesbian and gay people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

(Editor’s Note:  An internet search for an online version of the Mtambo/Trapence column did not produce it.  Since two news stories from legitimate, professional sources discuss the column, I am left to believe that the column only appeared in print.)

Related article:

Nyasa Times: “Remove prejudice against gays:  Malawi activists react to Catholic stand”

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