Silenced Voices by Laurie Gaum

Silenced Voices by Laurie Gaum

Archbishop-emeritus Desmond Tutu has recently again proved his prophetic stance and integrity by giving an unequivocally clear message about homophobia in Africa. In an opinion piece to the Washington Post the stalwart human-rights champion said that such ‘hate has no place in the house of God’. Tutu deplored the current state of affairs in Africa as ‘terrible backwards steps for human rights in Africa’.

We are indeed facing a continent-wide upsurge in homophobia. Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai could find agreement with Robert Mugabe on this one subject only – that progress regarding gay rights will not be part of Zimbabwe’s constitutional reforms. With that they added Zimbabwe’s name to a growing list of African countries whose human rights records fail dismally when it comes to LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex): Uganda, Malawi and Kenya, to name but a few, and where recent incidents have the added threat that this hate may be entrenched in legislation. This is indeed a stark reminder of the kind of discrimination people experienced under apartheid in South Africa.

The director of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (I AM) Pieter Oberholzer had a taste of the situation in our continent when he and gay Christian activist Victor Mukasa were not allowed to speak at an event organised by the Malawi Council of Churches to which they’d been invited to give witness to their faith as gay Christians. They described being ‘treated as lepers’ at a consultative meeting on homosexuality held in Malawi flowing out of the First African Dialogue on Christian Faith and Sexuality organised last year in South Africa by ‘I AM’.

The call of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), held mid-May, for a campaign to oppose religious extremist voices by promoting moderate and progressive positions, therefore, comes not a moment too soon. We know what religious fundamentalism and patriarchy contribute to the above-mentioned state of affairs. Let us add our voices to this campaign as we also celebrate the ministry of a much-loved Capetonian’s recent retirement. The voice and witness of Rowan Smith, retired dean of Cape Town, has resounded clearly from our continent for many years – a voice of justice and equality for all God’s people.

To endorse IDAHO’s International Appeal to Religions, visit