Church leaders call for openess, dialogue, with Tonga’s LGBTI community

    Tongan Christians have been asked to be more open to LGBTI people.

    Speaking after a recent national consultation with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community, the President of the Tonga National Council of Churches said Christians needed to be ready to engage in open discussion.

    The initiative for the consultation came from the LGBTI community which want the government to change the law which penalises cross-dressing and sodomy.

    Members of the LGBTI community met with church leaders and Parliamentarians

    The leader of the Catholic Church in Tonga, Cardinal Soane Patita Mafi said more open discussion would improve understanding.

    Radio New Zealand reported the cardinal as saying it was time to “talk these things out with some encouraging words with one another.”

    “But the basic essential thing is to make them feel accepted. They’re valued in their dignity. They are persons created by God.”

    Tonga’s Leiti Association planned the national consultation to petition for changes to the Criminal Offences Act, which criminalises cross-dressing and sodomy and can be punished with up to ten years in prison.

    In 2015, a human rights conference in Tonga organised by the Pacific Sexuality Diversity Network was targeted  by several church groups,

    Project officer for the Tongan Leiti association, Henry Aho, said in October that some conservative Christians thought that having reinforced the Sunday trading laws which shut down the kingdom’s bakeries, it was time to strengthen anti-gay legislation.

    The LGBTI community in Tonga was given a boost at this year’s Olympics when openly gay athlete Amini Fonua publicly attacked a reporter for what he saw as an anti-gay story.

    “We are a very Christian country but we can hold onto that without being intolerant. It’s possible,” Fonua said at the time.

    The main points

    • Tongan Christians have been asked to be more open to LGBTI people.
    • Speaking after a recent national consultation with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community, the President of the Tonga National Council of Churches said Christians needed to be ready to engage in open discussion.
    • The initiative for the consultation came from the LGBTI community which want the government to change the law which penalises cross-dressing and sodomy.
    • Radio New Zealand reported the leader of the Catholic Church in Tonga, Cardinal Soane Patita Mafi, as saying it was time to “talk these things out with some encouraging words with one another.”

    For more information

    Tonga church to seek dialogue with LGBTI

    LGBT community calls for change in conservative Tonga

    Tonga’s out gay Olympian hints at which sports have the most queer athletes on Grindr at Rio

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