Catholic Bishops in Malawi on Friday advised President Peter Mutharika to resist pressure over the controversial issue of homosexuality rights by following constitutional guidelines in running the country.
The bishops said this when they formally introduced the Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Zomba, the Very Reverend Father George Tambala, to the President and also held closed-door discussions with Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
The development comes amid a huge public debate in the country following government’s decision to reaffirm a moratorium issued by the Joyce Banda-led government on suspension of anti-homosexuality laws while pardoning a gay couple recently arrested in Lilongwe.
Archbishop Thomas Msusa of the Archdiocese of Blantyre, who is also chairperson of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi and who led a five-member delegation, told news reporters that the closed-door discussions were cordial and far-reaching.
“We were candid with the President, to say that these controversies and undue pressure on gay rights [Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender intersex matters] are alien to most Malawians and are being championed by foreigners.
“As the Catholic Church, we say ‘no’ to supporting these gay activities and we will follow strictly our church doctrine. And we told the President not to be swayed on these matters but to follow what the Malawi Constitution says,” Msusa stated.
The Catholic Church doctrine deems the LGBTI practices as sinful and recommends that such people be conscientised, counselled and be guided to repent from their practices that run counter to the teachings of the Bible.
The Malawi Constitution criminalises the homosexuality practices, although recently the nation signalled a softening of its stand after signing treaties to moderate the stance largely influenced by international stakeholders, including some donors.
When two male Malawians were recently arrested in Lilongwe for suspected homosexual activities, there was so much disdain and anger from international and local gay and other human right activists that the government was forced to use a moratorium waiver to release the arrested pair.
It has been a move that has not gone down well with most Christians and Moslems whose rigid stand is based on their religious doctrines and beliefs.
Msusa explained that the other issues tackled during the Bishops’ audience with the President included the Catholic Church’s continued commitment to working with the government in major development programmes in sectors like health and education.
Welcoming the Bishops, Mutharika praised the Catholic Church for having been a faithful partner of the government in fostering national development, security and unity.
He assured the Bishop-elect of his government’s support, urging him to promote spiritual nurture among the people and to enrich the church with his new ideas.
Said Mutharika: “When people have faith in God, they [ultimately] have faith in themselves. Allow me, therefore…, to tell Malawians to believe in themselves and in their capabilities. If they believe in themselves, they work hard, they will be patriotic and they will be contributing (to development) and in the end, it will be Mother Malawi that will progress.” n