- South Africa's Archbishop has condemned the persecution of lesbians, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex (LGBTI). Desmond Tutu addressed hundreds of gays and lesbians at an annual awards gala dubbed "A Celebration of Courage" in San Francisco in the United States.
On behalf of his church, the cleric apologised for the ostracisation of gay people.
The Nobel Peace Prize laurette was presented with an Outspoken award by the Internattional Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRCs). The award was in recognition of Mr Tutu's leadership as a global ally of the LGBTI community. His outspokenness is believed to have substantially to advancing the rights and understanding of gays and lesbians everywhere.
The cleric also threw punches at China over gross violations of rights in Tibet. The ceremony overlapped with a candle-lit vigil for Tibet in United Nations plaza, few hours before anticipated protests as the Olympic touch journeyed through San Francisco on its way to the Olympic Games host, Beijing.
"When IGLHRC invited Archbishop Tutu to come to San Francisco to accept its Outspoken Award, we had no idea that our event would coincide with such a momentous time in the history of human rights activism," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC's executive director.
"The Archbishop's speech at this unique historical moment affirms that human rights apply to each and every human being-in South Africa, in the United States, in China, and around the world.
Activists and governments alike should heed the Archbishop's words. He is a moral luminary whose inclusive approach to human rights advocacy paves the way for a better world."
Archbishop Tutu said he could not keep quiet "when people were frequently hounded...vilified, molested and even killed as targets of homophobia...for something they did not choose-their sexual orientation."
In the face of this ongoing persecution, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient praised LGBTI people for being "compassionate, caring, self-sacrificing and refusing to be embittered."
He spoke critically of his Church, apologizing for the way it has ostracized LGBTI people, and for making them feel as if God had made a mistake by creating them to be who they are. "How sad it is," he said,
"That the Church should be so obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when God's children are facing massive problems-- poverty, disease, corruption, conflict..."
In an earlier interview with IGLHRC, Archbishop Tutu said this was the first time that an organisation had acknowledged his tough stance on gay and lesbian right for years.
"Archbishop Tutu is a rare and special individual who embodies human rights and morality," said Ettelbrick.
"He recognizes that all human beings are valuable, that we are all interdependent, and that our struggles are shared. We are so honored that he has chosen to attend our event tonight and accept IGLHRC's OUTSPOKEN Award."
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