Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has warned African churches against paying too much attention to the issue of homosexuality while ignoring real problems facing the continent.
“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 during the World Social Forum.
During the January 20-25 WSF, homosexuals and their supporters took many Kenyans by surprise when they marched through Nairobi’s streets clad in black T-shirts inscribed: “We are here, we are queer and we are proud.”
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 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 January 29. “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 WSF event, with Sheikh Mohammed Dor, the leader of the Islamic Preachers of Kenya demanding that the government crack down on them.
“The Muslim community is against homosexuality because the vice is ungodly. Both the Quran and the Bible condemn it,” Dor told Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper on January 28 from the coastal city of Mombasa.