Archbishop of Canterbury tells Mugabe that jailing gays is wrong

Robert Mugabe | Justin Welby

Robert Mugabe | Justin Welby

It’s been revealed that the Anglican Church’s global figurehead has told President Robert Mugabe that criminalising homosexuality is wrong.

The Episcopal News Service reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, met with Mugabe in Harare earlier this month. The cleric was in Zimbabwe the day before the April 18 Anglican Consultative Council (ACG) in Lusaka.

Welby told ACG attendees that at the meeting, Mugabe asked him about the Anglican Communion’s policy towards same-sex marriage.

He said that he explained to the notoriously homophobic president that Anglicans have “widely differing views on the subject but that the majority opinion is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman…”

Welby went on to point out to Mugabe that despite this, “the unanimous opinion of the primates’ meeting was that the criminalisation of LGBTIQ people is entirely wrong”.

Welby added dryly: “I don’t think it would be fair to say that he entirely agreed with me.”

Mugabe has previously stated that gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs” and that they “don’t have any human rights at all”.

In January, at a meeting of global Anglican Church leaders, known as primates, in Canterbury, the Anglican Communion suspended the USA’s Episcopal Church for “unilaterally” accepting same-sex unions.

Divisions in the Anglican Church erupted in 2003, when the openly gay and non-celibate Gene Robinson was elected the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the US Episcopal Church. Tensions were heightened in July 2015 when the Episcopal Church officially allowed the affirmation of same-sex marriages.

Speaking at the ACG, Welby said that despite the Anglican Church’s “profound and important divisions” on same-sex marriage, Anglicans “are deeply committed” to combating the criminalisation of homosexuality “in every place where we find it and not supporting those who support it”.

Gay sex and public affection are illegal in Zimbabwe, with penalties of up to three years in jail. Same-sex marriage is also illegal, as entrenched in the country’s Constitution.

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