Friday, 25 June 2010

MaltaToday: Humanists and gay rights activists deplore statements by religious leaders

Activists deplored the 'marriage of convenience' at the Muslim-Catholic seminar that 'hurt thousands' in same-sex relationships

The Malta Humanist Association and the Malta Gay Rights Movement have expressed their concerns at statements made by religious leaders on homosexuality

In a joint statement, the two groups said they were deeply concerned by statements issued yesterday by Archbishop Paul Cremona and Ammar Hreba, head of the Islamic Centre and Propagation Bureau, at a joint Muslim-Catholic seminar organised by the World Islamic Call Society.

The MHA and MGRM say they are in favour of inter-cultural dialogue, but reports of this seminar "suggested a ‘marriage of convenience’ between Malta’s two largest religious denominations, specifically to propagate views on marriage and human sexuality which both the MHA and MGRM consider to be inherently flawed."

The associations said that it was alarming that such influential institutions "should use their combined strength to prevent couples of the same gender from marrying, simply because of an ancient myth about a man, a woman and a talking snake."

Quotes attributed to Cremona and Hreba suggest that the local Catholic and Muslim community leaders incline towards a literal interpretation of the Creation myth from their respective Scriptures. The Malta Humanist Association rejected "interpretations which disregard all scientific knowledge on the subject of humanity’s origins, that such distortions are used for political ends, in order to influence legislation that affects the private lives of thousands of people."

Both associations deemed it "regrettable" that religious leaders like Hreba would resort to such alarmist language with regard to same-sex unions. Hreba was quoted as saying: “if we let the family collapse, there will be catastrophe and destruction. Same-sex marriage destroys the entity of the family, which began with Adam and Eve.”

The MHA and MGRM deplored this as an example of hate speech, and urged Hreba to retract the statement and apologise for "the hurt caused to thousands of Maltese citizens currently in same-sex relationships."

The Malta Gay Rights Movement said same-sex marriage is no more a threat to heterosexual couples and straight families than space exploration or deep sea diving. "It is regrettable that the focus should be on same-sex marriage, rather than on the real threat to families of all shapes and sizes, that is: poverty, poor parenting, inadequate housing, low educational aspirations and attainment; poor mental health, child abuse, domestic violence and unemployment, among others."

"The Malta Humanist Association finds it strange that the Church would cite only ‘divorce’ and ‘polygamy’ as examples of areas where it disagrees with Islam. It argued that one would have thought the Church founded by Christ would also object - as Christ did - to the death penalty for adultery (which Sharia law applies only in the case of women), as well as for atheism and apostasy - a state of fact which flies in the face of decency, and also blatantly breaches fundamental human rights."

The MHA and MGRM said these are a few of the many issues the local Catholic Church appears to have overlooked in its current dialogue with the Muslim community. The MHA and MGRM say that they hope this is not an indication of the direction Malta’s majority religion intends to take in future.

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