When I opened my (Malawi Sunday Times yesterday I could have been forgiven for thinking that it was a Secular Sabbath edition!
The regular Science & Critical Thinking column had been moved from obscurity at the tail end of the Religion section and has been given a prominent position on the inside of the Letters page. Not only that, it had been highlighted and sits opposite several of the regular columnists. Promotion!
Next came a two opposing page debate on the criminalisation/decriminalisation issue of homosexuality. Executive Secretary, George Thindwa had a page on which to argue for decriminalisation.
On the front page of the Religion section and on the following page was an article expounding Bishop Tutu's pro-gay arguments. While we humanists may not agree with the religious sentiment, it is worth repeating the closing paragraphs:
Besides what he describes as intolerance from politicians, Tutu also described the largest offence as those doing it in the name of God. He challenged them to show himwhere Jesus Christ said "Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones." Gay people, too, are made in my God's image. I would never worship a homophobic God."
"But they are sinners," I can hear the preachers and politicians say. "They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished." My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin colour, is another feature of our diversity as a human family."
"Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet here is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excludd, from the circle of his love?," asked Tutu.
"Malawi is a god-fearing nation"
This is the trite phrase that is trotted out to stop all argument! And now - as a bonus - her regular column, This World Around Me, Deborah Nyangulu-Chipofya cries ENOUGH! In a very well argued piece she says, amongst other things: "Simply put 'We are a god-fearing nation' has become a sort of verbal bogeyman to scare off people with alternat views. And for the most part God-fearing propogandists are intolerant people who want to oppress minorities."
She ends her article with: "I hope this article won't cost me my citizenship in this God-fearing nation. But the I just want to make sense of this god-fearing talk and help avoid a situation where we would wake up one morning to be told that we can't question the autority of the President because we are a God-fearing nation."
It looks as if ASH's efforts are paying off and the whole editorial staff have had a second look at balance. Perhaps, also, they have started to think a little more critically about these issues. This is a very big change from several months ago.
We are grateful to the Editorial staff of the Sunday Times for taking a more open approach.