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The Religious Dialogue Partners’ Process

The Religious Dialogue Partners’ (RDP) process is a locally-grounded project, currently active in 3 Southern African countries and is steadily expanding to 10 SADC countries over a period of time.

Regarding the situation in Zambia and specifically the communique from the Archbishop of Lusaka, dated 22 September 2022

26 September 2022 

For Immediate Release: 

On Sunday 25 September 2022, the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lusaka, requested that a communique be read out in parishes across the diocese. The communique calls congregants to ‘act against the proliferation of LGBTQ+ and other vices which are averse and seem to be on the increase corroding the fabric of our society.’ 

In light of the fact that the Zambian LGBTIQ+ community already faces significant violence and discrimination, we deplore this communique by the Archbishop, which, we believe will provide further justification and support for those inflicting violence on the LGBTIQ+ community. The statement by the Archbishop has the potential to further escalate violence and we are deeply concerned for the wellbeing and safety of members of the LGBTIQ+ community in Zambia. 

Religious leaders are the shepherds of their flocks and have a responsibility to provide guidance, care and support to the faith community. Although we understand that for the Archbishop of Lusaka, same sex sexualities and non normative gender identities are unfamiliar we do not believe that it is appropriate, especially in a context in which people are already marginalised and subject to violence and discrimination, for the Archbishop to (in effect from the pulpit) put his stamp of approval on further violence. 

It is from a Christian perspective that we ponder the effects of such statements on LGBTI Zambians. What does it mean to their sense of safety and mental health? They are pitted against their parents and families. Even supposedly hope-inducing institutions such as churches are listed as their hunters, to hunt them out. 

Zambia’s constitution, while it characterises Zambia as a Christian nation, also outlaws discrimination on a number of grounds, including religion, belief, and culture and makes provision for the rights to life, liberty, security of the person, and freedom of conscience, expression, assembly, movement, and association. The Zambian Penal Code as it stands is a hangover from pre-independence Zambia and is thus a British colonial artifact. 

It is clear that even within the Bible there are different interpretations of events and laws 1, and the fact that this story has become an anecdotal anti-LGBTIQ+ proof text that fixates on one that literal and decontextualised readings of the text ignore or miss much of what makes the Bible a unique text. In contrast, contextual and liberation methods of reading the Bible bring together in mutual critical dialogue the contexts of the Bible with contemporary society and scholarship, which is particularly important as decolonial discourses remind us that African traditions and knowledge must be protected from the hegemony of Western knowledge and Western forms of Christianity. 

Specifically, in this case the following elements should be noted: 

  1. The claim that sexual diversity is “un-African” is refuted by well-researched traditional practices in some communities such as women having female husbands and men having male wives; and African traditional religious leaders who are inhabited by an opposite sex ancestor and therefore exhibit characteristics of that sex, including their choice of intimate partner. People with non-normative gender identities and sexual orientations have always been part of our communities and families in the African context and claiming that LGBTIQ+ people are a ‘Western’ import is false and historically inaccurate.2
  2. In the African context, human sexuality has generally been conceived as a divine life-affirming gift which holistically embraces diverse human relationships and sexual expressions that lead to sexual pleasure and renewal as well as, in some cases, procreation.
  3. In African traditions, sexual difference has never been a reason for exclusion from family and community life. Punishing people for sexual difference by denying them the right to full participation in society is a colonial notion being advanced by the extreme religious right and those they have co-opted, and is distinctly un-African. (see The Johannesburg Declaration).
  4. The practice of scapegoating those most vulnerable in society in times of political change and upheaval is not a new phenomenon and numerous human rights violations and crimes against humanity have their roots in this ideological strategy. Rather than stigmatizing and othering those who are different in a society, the Church of Christ is called to protect the poor, marginalized and disenfranchised. 
  5. Pitting faith and sexuality against each other is a false dichotomy and is harmful not only for those who identify within the LGBTIQ+ community but for all people of faith as they navigate the journey of integrating sexuality and spirituality. Rather than shading conversations pertaining to embodiment and sexuality with shame, we believe that there is a wealth of resources that could help people of faith on this journey. We believe that faith communities and faith leaders have an instrumental role to play in this process and to the development of a life-affirming sexual ethic that affirms the human dignity of all and celebrates our capacity for love, commitment and pleasure. 

Our African faith and cultural traditions have long included the understanding that all human beings are created in the image of God, and have inherent dignity, and that we have a duty to care for the vulnerable and marginalized in our societies, communities and families. In light of this we deeply regret the actions of the Archbishop. The people of Zambia, just as it is the people of the African continent, deserve an opportunity to see humanity beyond heterosexuality. That opportunity has the potential for a reclamation of the African people’s history of dealing with diversity, an opportunity of understanding beyond the common narrative of dehumanization. 

Rather than inciting violence and enabling discrimination, we encourage the Archbishop and the Catholic Church in Zambia to enter into a process of fellowship and discernment alongside LGBTIQ+ people of faith and skilled dialogue facilitators in Zambia and to collectively grow in the mission to offer compassion, care and love to those most vulnerable. We believe that this will resemble the posture of Christ as he reached out to those that the world despised and excluded. 

In solidarity, 

GIN-SSOGIE, South Africa 

Ujamaa Centre, South Africa 

Gender and Religion Programme, Department of Philosophy, Religion and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Inclusive & Affirming Ministries, South Africa 

Holy Trinity LGBTI Ministry , South Africa 

Pema Kenya, Kenya 

Nafasi innovation , Nakuru 

Spectrum Uganda initiatives , Kampala , Uganda 

GALCK+, Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Kenya 

Initiative for Rescue Uganda , Uganda _Kampala 

Lived Realities Uganda , Jinja Uganda 

Rights 4 Her Uganda , Wakiso, Uganda 

Foaster Foundation For Healthcare Uganda , Uganda 

Youth on Rock Foundation , Wakiso and Kampala 

Uganda Key Populations Consortium – UKPC, Uganda 

Women With A Mission, Uganda 

Uthingo Network, South Africa 

Bophelong lgbtqi+, Bophelong, Vanderbiljipark 

Voice of community Empowerment , Northern Uganda 

Sexual Minorities Uganda , Uganda 

Trans Youth Initiative-Uganda , Uganda 

Newcastle Prideful Legends, Newcastle Amajuba District 

VukaVaalRainbow Movement , South Africa 

Bophelong LGBTQ community, Bophelong 

www.MambaOnline.com, South Africa 

Imvelo , South Africa 

Unit for Religion and Development Research, Stellenbosch University , Cape Town, South Africa Serving Lives Under Marginalization SLUM , Wakiso, Uganda 

Men Of the Night Uganda, Kampala 

Lady Mermaid Empowerment Centre , Kampala 

RR DEVELOPMENTS AND STUDIES PROJECTS , Vanderbjilpark,Gauteng . South Africa Newcastle Prideful Legends, Newcastle 

Latu Human Rights Foundation, Zambia 

Dr Leila Hassim, Johannesburg Emmarentia 

Prof. Charlene van der Walt, South Africa 

Linda Naicker , South Africa 

Dianne Willman , South Africa 

Ana Ester Pádua Freire, Brazil/USA 

Ishmael Bahati, Kenya 

Siwakhile Ngcobo , South Africa 

Annalet van Schalkwyk, Tshwane, Gauteng, South Africa

Alison Harwood , South Africa 

Prof. Dion Forster, South Africa 

Simon Oosthuizen, South Africa 

Xana McCauley, Johannesburg, South Africa Kizza samuel ganafa, Uganda 

Brant Luswata, Kampala 

Hennie Pienaar, South Africa 

Sizwesamajobe , South Africa 

Gina McCauley , Charlotte, North Carolina, USA Tracey Sibisi, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Fr Mpole Samuel Masemola, Johannesburg Mavis Joan Kitchin, KZN 

Thuli Mjwara , South Africa 

Sibonelo Ncanana , South Africa 

Alice Matshidiso Tsukudu , Gauteng/vall Sbk Banyana, South Africa 

Debbie French , Johannesburg South Africa Alex Smit, Johannesburg 

Sophia Bullen, SA 

Charlene Donald, South Africa 

Benedict James Kelly, Johannesburg, South Africa Allan Nsubuga , Uganda 

Claire Tucker, Sandton South Africa 

Zama, Durban 

Lauren Matthew , South Africa, Durban Bridget Kelly , Johannesburg 

Fr Thomas Ninan , India 

Michael Takkos, South Africa 

Shadrack Thabang Mtshali , South Africa Mnelisi , Eastern Cape, Stutterheim 

Lebohang Christopher , Vereeniging 

Clif Cannon, JD, Mexico City 

Terence Creamer , RSA 

Sarah Rule, Stellenbosch, South Africa Mazibuko, KZN TRAINERS 

E Ann Ralstn, South Africa 

Sphelele, south africa 

Dr Nontando Hadebe, South Africa

Rev. Teboho G. Klaas, Vosloorus, South Africa 

Percy , Johannesburg 

Mj Ranthekeleng , RSA 

Marilyn Brown, Gauteng, South Africa 

Alan McCauley , Johannesburg 

Sanyu Hajjara Batte , Uganda 

Kyomukama Flavia, Uganda 

Merrishia Singh-Naicker , South Africa 

Soroti women health support initiatives (SWHSI), Soroti city, Eastern Uganda in East Africa Taboom Media, South Africa 

Women’s Positive Empowerment Initiative, Uganda 

Amar Alfikar, Indonesia 

Tranz Network Uganda, Kampala Uganda 

Roman Catholic Women Priests, South Africa, Johannesburg & Cape Town Freedom and Roam Uganda , Africa Uganda 

Faithful Catholic Souls Uganda, Uganda 

Denis Hurley Centre, Durban, South Africa 

We Will Speak Out South Africa, National 

Ark Wellness Hub Uganda, Uganda 

Levites Initiative for Freedom and Enlightenment (LIFFE), Nigeria 

The Fruit Basket, South Africa 

Exit Publications, South Africa 

TransWorksGlobal, South Africa 

Queerprism256 podcast, Uganda 

Roman Catholic Womenpriests, South Africa 

Paula Sebastião , Angola 

Jennifer Gous, South Africa 

Bianca Truter-Botha, Cape Town 

Shannon Philip, United Kingdom 

Matty Samsam, Gaborone, Botswana 

Walter Ude, Nigeria 

Kalu Kingsley, Nigeria 

Laurie Gaum, South Africa 

Akani Shimange, South Africa 

Ana Carvalho, Portugal 

Frances Butler, South Africa 

Mark Dowd, Manchester, UK 

Sandra Duncan, Pretoria, South Africa

Lovemore Mupanta, Ndola, Zambia Daniel Kasonde , Johannesburg 

Ruth Busschau, Johannesburg South Africa Ruby Almeida, Europe 

Kudakwashe Courage Maora, South Africa Kuda, South Africa 

Kudakwashe Courage Maora, South Africa Rebecca Bantsijang , South Africa Stefan De Klerk, Bloubergstrand 

Chiseche Mibenge, USA 

Safe Place International, South Africa The Other Foundation, South Africa

 

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1 Conservative religious actors make reference time and time again to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) to support divine judgement and opposition to homosexuality. Beyond supposed line of interpretation to the exclusion of more comprehensive and contextual engagements with the text, the Bible internally offers hints as to the real intention of the text. The Bible internally presents different interpretations and reasons for the destruction of the two cities that have nothing to do with expressions of sexual diversity and gender identity. For example, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Jesus present vastly different interpretations none of which mention sex or homosexuality. In Jeremiah 23:14 the sins linked to Sodom and Gomorrah are adultery, lies, evil doing; Ezekiel 16:49 indicates that the sins of Sodom are pride, excess of food, prosperity and not aiding the poor and needy; and Jesus in Matthew 10:1-15 refers to Sodom and Gomorrah (v 15) in the context of those who reject or refuse to receive disciples and their message. (see The Johannesburg Declaration, 2018 – footnote 2).

2 The Johannesburg Declaration (2018) arose out of a gathering of mostly African scholars, researchers, rights-defenders, and religious leaders from diverse backgrounds and traditions, including African traditional religions, Islam and Christianity. It sought to reclaim and affirm the diversity of families in Sub-Saharan Africa. More information, and a list of signatories as available here: http://www.gin-ssogie.org/johannesburg-declaration/

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