Zimbabwe: Preacher, don’t spew anti-gay bias

Emmanuel Makandiwa (Photo courtesy of the Sunday Mail)
Emmanuel Makandiwa (Photo courtesy of the Sunday Mail)

Activists in Zimbabwe are challenging a popular local preacher’s description of homosexuals as mentally ill, including homosexual “politicians, billionaires and big businesspeople whose influence often serves as some smokescreen to cover their mental sickness.”

Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International Church stated in an article in the Sunday Mail of Zimbabwe:

“What amazes me is that some of these people are billionaires. Some of these people with reprobate minds are in political positions. Now they are passing laws to support homosexuality, defending their reprobate minds. You can’t even advise them against it, they can even arrest you for that.”

It is unclear what country Makandiwa was referring to.  Perhaps he was inaccurately describing European countries or the United States. He couldn’t be referring to Zimbabwe, could he?

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe routinely condemns LGBT people as “worse than dogs and pigs,” sexual relations between men are punishable by up to a year in prison, same-sex marriage is prohibited by the Zimbabwean constitution, and the ruling Zanu PF party has proposed a constitutional ban on “homosexuality, gays and lesbian practices.”

In response, the human rights group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) issued a statement that called on Makandiwa to remember that “One of the fundamental roles of the church is to foster love, unity, empathy and cohesion in society.”

GALZ added that “his offensive comments … serve only to reinforce the prejudice against LGBTI people in this country and encourage persecution.”

GALZ also asked Makandiwa to “pray for a day when the question of one’s sexuality will become irrelevant and discrimination against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people will be relegated to the same heap containing slavery, racism (including anti-Semitism), sexism and discrimination against socially marginalized groups and people.”

This is the full text of the GALZ statement, issued March 31, 2014:

GALZ Statement on Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa’s remarks

GALZ website
GALZ website

Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa’s statements as reported in the Sunday Mail, 30 March 2014 perpetuate hate and wrong perceptions about LGBTI people.

It is unfortunate coming from a high-ranking church leader of his calibre. As a man of the church, one would expect Prophet Makandiwa to do his gospel duty by standing alongside the marginalised and the social outcast.

It is one thing for you to remain silent or neutral about homosexuality; it is
quite another for you to castigate us when some of your followers are LGBTI
people themselves hence statements such as the ones quoted in the Sunday
Mail hinder his ability to reach out to the people that yearn for God’s love. He
does not have the right to judge.

As Christians we are called to love just as we would love anyone else. We
should learn to show compassion and be willing to associate with those that
bear the burdens of life placed upon them by others. Prophet Makandiwa
must have conviction of the power of the Gospel he preaches to “convert”. He
needs not be a modern day “Pharisee”. We are reminded of (Matthew 23:13-15)

One of the fundamental roles of the church is to foster love, unity, empathy
and cohesion in society. This does not seem to be reflected in his offensive
comments that serve only to reinforce the prejudice against LGBTI people in
this country and encourage persecution.

Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by
the people you meet than issuing infallible decrees from the pulpit. As a
pastor and Christian in order to serve his flock well, he might do so by
admitting he is wrong and sharing his frailty than pretending he know Gods
will on a given subject.

We hope he will understand that manipulating the authority of the church to
fight political battles is the most blatant sin and that he prays for a day when
the question of one’s sexuality will become irrelevant and discrimination
against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people will be relegated to the
same heap containing slavery, racism (including anti-Semitism), sexism and
discrimination against socially marginalized groups and people.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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