- The bishops of the Anglican Church in South Africa are calling on President Jacob Zuma to seek the release of a gay couple sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by a Malawi court over their sexual identity.
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, who is the formal head of the Anglican Church in the Southern African region, today urged for South African action to release Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga from imprisonment in Malawi. A statement was issued in the name of "the Bishops of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa."
"Though there is a breadth of theological views among us on matters of human sexuality, we are united in opposing the criminalisation of homosexual people," the bishops said. "We see the sentence that has been handed down to these two individuals as a gross violation of human rights and we therefore strongly condemn such sentences."
The bishops called on President Zuma and the South African government "to lobby the government of Malawi at every level to uphold the commitment it shares through the SADC treaty to promote human rights. We urge them to press for the swift release of these two individuals, who have committed no act of violence or harm against anyone; for the quashing of the sentence against them; and for the repeal of this repressive legislation," the statement added.
The Anglican church leaders also expressed their concern over the widespread attack on homosexuals in Africa at large. "We wish to reiterate our deep concern at the violent language used against the gay community across Sub-Saharan Africa, and at the increased legal action being taken against gay individuals, communities and organisations," the bishops said.
"As Bishops we believe that it is immoral to permit or support oppression of, or discrimination against, people on the grounds of their sexual orientation, and contrary to the teaching of the gospel; particularly Jesus' command that we should love one another as he has loved us, without distinction," the Anglican clerics conclude.
Southern Africa Archbishop Makgoba is the leader of the large Anglican church communities in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, but also of smaller Anglican minorities in Angola and Mozambique.
His church province however does not extend to Malawi, which together with Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana forms the Anglican Church Province of Central Africa. In this church province, several Anglican bishops have expressed their support for the harsh sentence against the Malawi gay couple.
Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were detained in December after sharing in a traditional ceremony of engagement. A court in Blantyre, Malawi's second city, convicted the couple over "gross indecency" and "unnatural acts", giving them the maximum sentence of 14 years hard labour and imprisonment.
Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa explained he wanted to protect the general public in Malawi "from people like you."
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