PHOTO: The banner with writing that says “Go back to your country with your immorality, Tonga do not want you evil people.” Photo/Supplied
A protest by a church group who told gay activists attending a conference in Tonga they were evil has been strongly criticised.
The church members have hung a banner on the Nuku’alofa waterfront saying “Go back to your country with your immorality, Tonga do not want you evil people.”
The banner is a few metres away from the Fa’onelua Convention Centre where the conference is being held.
A dozen members of the Tokaikolo Church have been protesting since Monday 11 against a conference on sexual orientation and gay rights.
The theme of the conference is “Our Voices, Our Communities, Our Rights: Advancing Human Rights related to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression in the Pacific.”
About 50 people are attending the conference, which is being hosted by the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network.
Tonga’s Leiti Association and its supporters blasted the church protesters as “hypocrites.”
Leiti association’s President Joey Mataele told Kaniva News that when he read the banner he felt like an outsider in his own society.
He said he respected the church leaders in Tonga and he loved the people who protested against the conference.
“What does Friendly Islands mean?” Mataele said.
“We are fed up with saying Tonga is a Christian nation.”
He said it may have been better if the protesters had said a prayer for the gays during the conference.
Mataele said the protesters were trying to tell the public that gay people were evil and that everyone else, including the protesters, had not yet committed any sins.
Mataele said conference delegates had discussed public abuse they had suffered because of their sexual orientation, suicidal cases, HIV/AIDS/STI, NCD and bullying at school.
Questions under discussion included what was working well in the Pacific and what could be done to help those who had been physically abused in other Pacific Islands because of their gender. Delegates also talked about people who had been murdered because they were Leitis.
Gay supporter Pilinisesi ‘Ohaikula said the conference was about human rights and said gay rights were only a fraction of it.
He said there were a number of issues the church should protest against such as rape, incest, murder and inter-colleges fights.
“Everybody is sinful, so who are they pointing a finger at?” ‘Ohaikula said.
“What harm do we bring that scares them?
“We only bring entertainment and cleanliness and civilization to our island.”
He called the protesters “ignorant, uneducated, heartless evil.”
He criticised the members of the Tokaikolo church saying it had caused a lot of trouble among its members.
Kaniva News was unable to reach any of the church members organising the protest for comment.
However, some commentators on social media said the church had a constitutional right to protest and express their opinions.
“Tonga is a very religious country,” one commentator said.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean it is a Godly country, there is a huuuge [sic] difference between the two. Religious people like to judge and condemn others, refusing to look at their own iniquity they are drowning in.”
The Tokaikolo church came under the spotlight in 2013 when more than half its congregation broke away in 2013 and established the Mo’ui Fo’ou ‘Ia Kalaisi church. The break-away members claimed Tokaikolo church leader Rev Liufau Saulala was not accountable to church members and complained that they could not find out how church funds were being managed.
The Tongan word fakaleitī refers to gay men. Leitī comes from lady in English and fakaleitī refers to a man who is gay. Although there are gay women in Tonga there has been never any organisation organized to recognise gay woman. The conference in Tonga was organised and only attended by the fakaleitī or leitī.
The main points
- A protest by a church group who told gay activists attending a conference in Tonga they were evil has been strongly criticised.
- The church members have hung a banner on the Nuku’alofa waterfront saying “Go back to your country with your immorality, Tonga do not want you evil people.”
- The banner is a few metres away from the Fa’onelua Convention Centre where the conference is being held.
- A dozen members of the Tokaikolo Church have been protesting since Monday 11 against a conference on sexual orientation and gay rights.
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