Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has warned that an unhealthy obsession with homosexuality means African churches risk ignoring real problems facing the continent ‚Äì and has added that the mistreatment of lesbian gay people is like 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 grassroots justice and peace activists, gay people and their supporters took many Kenyans by surprise when they marched through Nairobi's streets clad in black T-shirts proclaiming: "We are here, we are queer and we are proud."
Archbishop Tutu likened discrimination against homosexuals to that faced by black people under South Africa's racist apartheid policies.
"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."
Differences over homosexuality have threatened to tear apart the worldwide Anglican Communion, with some dioceses cutting links with the Episcopal Church in the USA over the issue.
But three days after the end of the WSF, which had a strong presence of Christian groups, the Rev Samuel Njoroge of the Anglican Church in Kenya, said he hoped greater tolerance from Christian leaders could win back homosexuals who may have left the Church.
"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 had reacted sharply to the highly visible presence of homosexuals at the World Social Forum event, with Sheikh Mohammed Dor, the leader of the Islamic Preachers of Kenya demanding that the government crack down on them.
[via Episcopal News Service, USA]