SOUTH AFRICA: Bold Anglican head condemns homophobia

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The head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa has issued a strong condemnation of violence against persons on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation and called for acceptance.

The Most Revd Dr. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of Southern Africa, said that as a Christian “I am called to love all God’s children.”

“Am I going to reduce my view of the beauty of humanity just on the basis of sexuality? If you take that route you will end up saying: I am going to discriminate on the basis of long noses and short noses, tall people and short people, right handers and left handers. Respect the gift of difference.”

Archbishop Makgoba’s sentiments are quite bold in a continent where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) persons are shunned and often attacked, sometimes fatally.

Religious leaders of all creeds and politicians are in the forefront of the campaign against LGBTI relationships, which they characterise as “unAfrican”, despite the fact that there are many homosexual persons in every society in the continent.

Archbishop Makgoba challenged that arguments that culture, tradition, and religion justify the marginalization of LGBTI people.

“Don’t fear,” Archbishop Makgoba says in a video message recorded by Human Rights Watch. “You’ve been given this task of helping the rest of humanity to realize that we are called to respect and we are called to honour each other. People may come and say this is unAfrican, and I’m saying love cuts across culture.”

Makgoba’s statement reinforces the persistent efforts of his predecessor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, to combat homophobia and transphobia in Africa and around the world

Archbishop Tutu has spoken out against a number of laws and practices that violate the rights of LGBTI people, including Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill and Burundi’s criminalization of same-sex conduct in 2009.

“When you violate somebody on the basis of difference you’re not only violating them but you are demeaning yourself,” Makgoba says in the video. He exhorts leaders to take up their “moral responsibility to stop the violence against people who are different.”

Makgoba’s statement was released amid high levels of violence against LGBTI people in Africa. In Cameroon, Eric Ohena Lembembe, a gay activist, was murdered in July 2013, but government officials have refused to acknowledge that his murder might be a hate crime.

In South Africa, lesbian and bisexual women and non-gender-conforming people face endemic rape and assault; the killing of Duduzile Zozo in July is the most recently reported example of such targeted violence.

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