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Church's decision to listen to gays welcomed

2 November 2005

Church's decision to listen to gays welcomed

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation has today welcomed the decision by the Methodist Church in Fiji to put off its anti-gay march until it has met with the local gay community.

The Fiji Times reported on Monday October 31 that the decision by the church was related to a statement in Auckland last week at the Pan Pacific Regional HIV AIDS conference by the Fijian Sexual Minorities Project spokesperson Carlos Perera, who told the conference's 500 delegates from throughout the Pacific region that the Methodist Church was the biggest perpetrator of anti-homosexual rhetoric in Fiji. On several occasions the church has organised anti-gay rallies and called for homosexuals to be stoned to death.

The Fiji times reported the church as saying it will listen to the gay community's side of the story before holding a protest march against the legalisation of homosexuality in Fiji.

"This is an outstanding result for human rights protection and HIV/AIDS prevention in the Pacific," says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. "It shows what can be achieved when people have the courage to stand up and be counted, as Carlos Perera did with such courage at our conference. We hope it is a first step toward the church recognising that Governments must base human rights considerations on inclusiveness, rather than exclusion and discrimination that leaves vulnerable minorities as second class citizens.

Ms Le Mesurier says a move toward confirming the constitutionally-defined human rights protection for Fiji's homosexual communities will be a positive step toward helping combat the spread of HIV in that country.

"Our experience is that whenever minority groups such as gays, sex workers, injecting drug users and so on are marginalised and kept underground by prohibitive laws, the conditions that lead to the spread of HIV are exacerbated.

"We look forward to hearing from the results of this promised dialogue between the Methodist Church and gays in Fiji that the church will recognise that its role is more properly and effectively one of care and support than one of fostering prejudice and discrimination."

ENDS

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