Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Anglican bishops in Southern Africa have called on the South African government to lobby for the release of the gay couple recently jailed in Malawi.

In a statement issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Cecil Makgoba, the bishops said that while “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 described the sentence of 14 years hard labour imposed on Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga simply for being gay as “a gross violation of human rights” and strongly condemned “such sentences and behaviour towards other human beings”.

The statement calls on President Zuma and the government to uphold the principles and values of the South African constitution in their external relations and to engage in dialogue with other governments on the rights of minorities.

“In particular we call on our President and 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 bishops furthermore stated their “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.

“Even in South Africa we are aware of instances of violence against the gay and lesbian community. We therefore appeal to law-makers everywhere to defend the rights of these minorities,” they said.

“We commit ourselves to teach, preach and act against any laws that undermine human dignity and oppress any and all minorities, even as we call for Christians and all people to uphold the standards of holiness of life.”

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