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Tutu compares homophobia to apartheid
Stewart Who?, (UK)
January 30, 2007

As a community, we’ve become accustomed to attacks from religious leaders, especially those hailing from Africa, so it’s heartening to hear that Desmond Tutu has questioned the country’s treatment of gays and lesbians.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has warned that a hysterical obsession with gay sex leaves African churches in danger of ignoring more pressing issues facing the continent. On a rather more contentious note, he suggested that the mistreatment of lesbian gay people is akin to apartheid.

"I am deeply, deeply distressed that in the face of the most horrendous problems - we've got poverty, we've got conflict and war, we've got HIV/AIDS - and what do we concentrate on? We concentrate on what you are doing in bed," Tutu told journalists in Nairobi towards the end of the World Social Forum (WSF) last week.

During WSF, a gathering of human rights and peace workers, gay activists took many Kenyans by surprise when they marched through Nairobi's streets in black T-shirts proclaiming: "We are here, we are queer and we are proud."

Archbishop Tutu boldly and quite rightly, tackled a taboo that has so far proved socially divisive.

"To penalise someone because of their sexual orientation is like what used to happen to us; to be penalised for something which we could do nothing [about] - our ethnicity, our race," said Tutu. "I would find it quite unacceptable to condemn, persecute a minority that has already been persecuted."

Disputes over the acceptance of gays and lesbians have threatened to tear apart the worldwide Anglican Communion, with some dioceses cutting links with the Episcopal Church in the USA over the issue.

Three days after the end of the WSF, which many Christian groups attended, the Reverend Samuel Njoroge of the Anglican Church in Kenya joined Tutu’s voice of reason. He hoped that greater tolerance from Christian leaders might win back the gay community who’ve been understandably leaving in droves.

"We need to re-examine our doctrine on sexual matters," he told Ecumenical News International on 29 January 2007. "We have to find how we approach the issue, but not throw them [homosexuals] out. As pastors, we are supposed to minister to the good, bad and ugly."

Kenyan Muslims were unimpressed by the brave, proud and loud gay presence at the World Social Forum event. Sheikh Mohammed Dor, the leader of the Islamic Preachers of Kenya highlighted the religion’s intolerance of gays and lesbians.

"The Muslim community is against homosexuality because the vice is ungodly. Both Koran and the Bible condemn the vice," he added.

Dor proudly showcased his ignorance by claiming homosexuality should removed from society as it fuels the spread of HIV/Aids. He then urged the State to enforce the law and crack down on the gays who’d requested marriage rights.

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