Religious leaders meet with LGBTI community in Malawi

Pic: MANERELA+ / Facebook

Pic: MANERELA+ / Facebook

Religious leaders and members of the LGBTI community have met in Malawi, a country known for its conservative stance towards sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to Nyasa Times, Friday’s gathering was organised by the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living or Personally Affected by HIV and Aids (MANERELA+).

The meeting in Blantyre – which included pastors, sheikhs, and prophets – aimed to bridge gaps within the faith community when it comes to LGBTI issues.

“It is no longer a secret that we have LGBTI groups in Malawi and the faith community need to accept that this is happening, understand what it is all about and play their role,” Allie Mwachande, from MANERELA+, told the newspaper.

“They are men of God and they preach love therefore we want them to do their best in reaching out to those LGBTI groups and teach them what the gospel tells us about sexual issues.”

One of the pastors commented: “We are highly respected and we have a voice in a society. If we have a power to speak out against homophobia and relate to people who are homosexual or transgender or intersex, then we have the power to change mindsets and bring healing.”

The dialogue is much needed in Malawi, where Christian and Muslim religious leaders have been at the forefront of condemning the LGBTI community and supporting the continued criminalisation of homosexuality.

The status of LGBTI people in Malawi is currently mired in confusion. In December last year, Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu announced a moratorium on the arrest of Malawians for having gay sex, which carries a penalty of 14 years in prison.

In February, however, a group called the Young Pastors Coalition of Malawi took the matter to the High Court in Mzuzu, which ruled that the government could not suspend laws, only Parliament may do so.

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