Malawian groups have expressed dismay at the Malawi Council of Churches’ statement that homosexuality should not be allowed in the country.

The MCC made the statement in an article published in The Sunday Times last month.

The article quotes MCC Chairperson, Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe, as saying that same-sex practices should not be allowed in Malawi because they “threaten the family unit” and “contradict Malawi’s rich traditions, culture and its spirituality as a God fearing nation”.

The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) and the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living or affected by HIV and AIDS (MANELERA) hit out at the comments, noting that Malawi is a secular and not a religious state.

“In Malawi, the law is not based on religious principles. The Malawi Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, upholds values of universality of human rights which provides the right to non-discrimination for everyone including sexual minorities,” said the groups.

They added:”People in Malawi come from different backgrounds and have different beliefs and traditions. Culture should not be used as a tool to deny the existence of minority groups. As a country we have not agreed as to what constitutes Malawian culture.

“It is therefore fallacious and extremely unfair to impose beliefs or regulate society using beliefs from one group or sect. The Church and its leadership are expected to imitate Jesus Christ in their pastoral work. Jesus spent his whole life compassionately embracing a diverse range of personalities, without promoting hatred, discrimination and persecution.

“Church leaders must also remember that they have the duty to promote love and tolerance among people of different religions, cultures and beliefs. Church leaders should not be the first to cast the stone of hate. We are all children of God, regardless of our personal circumstances.”

Consenting sex between men is illegal in Malawi, with penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment. In February, despite threats by some countries to suspend international funding, President Bingu Wa Mutharika signed an amendment to the penal code that also criminalised lesbianism, with a penalty of five years in prison.

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