One of Malawi's faith based organisations Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected with HIV and Aids (MANERELA) has embarked on a new project under the theme 'Building LGBTI Inclusive Faith Communities in Malawi'.
This was revealed at an orientation of Religious Leaders on Advocacy and Human Rights Sexuality which took place at T and D Lodge located in the Eastern Region District of Zomba on Tuesday 14th November 2017.
According to MANERELA Administrative and Finance Officer Allie Mwachande, the project will be implemented in four districts of Zomba, Mangochi, Salima and Nkhatabay and will run for one year with funding from Arcus Foundation to the tune of $50,000 USD.
Mwachande said one of the objectives of the project is to ensure that faith leaders develop an understanding of human sexuality as a starting point for creating an enabling environment for the key
population and other sexual minorities.
"At the end of the project, we expect enhanced understanding of human sexuality as a basis for creating an inclusive society that appreciates co-existence of humanity despite the existing diversity in human sexuality" said Mwachande.
He further said that the project will greatly assist in scaling of religious and community leadership dialogue on Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intra-sex (LGBTI) as well as facilitate the vreation of an enabling environment free of descrimination for the key populations in Malawi.
On his part, one of the Project Officer for MANERELA Harold Kachepatsonga said some of the activities lined up in the project are conducting planning meeting with Religious Leaders and LGBTI membersin all the targeted areas.
"We will also conduct advocacy training sessions with Religious Leaders and LGBTI Members, participate in public events such as Human Rights Day, World Aids Day and International Candle Light Memorialamong others. We will also engage the media," said Kachepatsonga.
According to Kachepatsonga, Religious Leaders need to be fully reminded their role of being agents of change.
"Naturally, Religious Leaders are agents of change in every society. They are highly respected and they have a voice in each and every society. But surprisingly, some continue to contribute to persistence
homophobia, stigma and discrimination towards LGBTI Community and mind you this is happening globally" he said.
He added that: "Religious Leaders are considered as role models and have a large constituency through out the religion. They are looked into to shape values normsa and the way we percieve the world".
One of the religious leaders who made a presentation during the meeting Fr. Martin Kalimbe reminded all Church Leaders to to welcome every one into the church.
"Church is like a hospital and we expect people to be healed both physically and spiritually so we don't need to draw lines on who should come to our churches" he said.
"All churches today are grappling with questions and challenges around issues of human sexuality. These are matters we must respond prayerfully and with loving hearts because some involved are devouted members in our congregation and belong to the bosy of Christ," he said adding that time has come to break about the vicious cycle of shame, secrecy, vilence and silence that demeans, demonizes and kills.
Other participants from the faith community agreed not to burry their heads in the sand but rather to go out and encourage LGBTI/Key opulation participate in church activities, create forums for inclusive discussions and dialogue among others as a way of promoting inclusiveness.
Meanwhile, religious leaders in Zomba have elected a new committee to champion the inclusiveness of the LGBTI community and the key population in general.
Bishop Chris Laban was elected Chairman with Fr. Dyson Chombo as his Vice.
Pastor Salome Malunga was elected Secretary to be deputised by Pastor Beston Mitulo.
Reverend Malanda will be the pulse keeper while Fr. Madi, Pastor Chipinga, Reverend Jambo and two members from the LGBTI groupnamely Yami Tchongwe and Dave Chisale were elected as executive members.
Each and every district where the new project will be implemented will have its own committee.
According to reserch findings and studies across the country and globally, sexual minority or key population are among the most marginalised population.
It has been revealed that institutions that ought to protect the rights of these people such as government and churches have actively persecuted them and they are threatened by violence that too often
"The project we are carrying out will assist in challenging these systematic injustices" concluded Kachepatsonga.