5 March 2019

Swaziland: 'Bisexual' Pastor Suspended By Swaziland Church in Latest Example of LGBTI Discrimination

A pastor in Swaziland / eSwatini has been suspended from his church after being accused of being a bisexual.

The Times of Swaziland newspaper on Monday (4 March 2019) published details of an audio recording it said included the pastor from Siphofaneni 'proposing love to another man'.

The Times did not name the pastor or the church for ethical reasons.

It reported, 'Subsequently, elders of the church suspended the pastor from all church activities, including ministering the Word of God.'

The pastor reportedly locked the church which forced people to worship under a tree.

Churches in Swaziland where homosexual acts are illegal are at the lead in encouraging discrimination against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people.

In the past Melusi Simelane, spokesperson for Rock of Hope, an LGBTI advocacy group, said, 'It is worth noting that many in the religious circles, continue to spew hate speech and show utter disregard for the deeds of the Lord, by being judgmental and expelling some of the LGBTI community from their places of worship.'

Gender Links, an advocacy group based in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported LGBTI people in Swaziland expressed concern about the lack of respect shown to them because of their sexual orientation.

Sifiso Nhlabatsi, writing on the website of Gender Links, an advocacy group based in Johannesburg, South Africa, said LGBTI people in Swaziland had tried to engage churches to sensitize them about their rights but had little success.

Nhlabatsi wrote about a meeting held between pastors and members of the LGBTI community in August 2018. 'During the meeting which was attended by over 20 pastors and I was also part of, pastors made it clear that they cannot allow gay people to "flaunt" their behaviour in front of congregants. Pastors said what is being done by LGBTI community is "demonic" and through prayer maybe can be healed.'

Nhlabatsi added, 'The meeting which started off on a good note ended on a sour note as the two parties had a clash of opinions. Senior Pastors in the country did not even bother to attend the dialogue.'

Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom with a population of about 1.3 million people, mostly living in rural communities. It is ruled by King Mswati III who is one of the world's last absolute monarchs who reportedly described homosexuality as being 'satanic.'

In May 2016 four organisations jointly reported to the United Nations about LGBTI discrimination in Swaziland. Part of their report stated, 'LGBT[I]s are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBT[I]s as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.'

On a more progressive note, Ark of Joy International Ministry, a church that welcomes and supports LGBTI people, relaunched in Coates Valley, Swaziland in December 2018.

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