Earlier this month, the Żebbuġ-based River of Love Christian Fellowship, which is led by Gordon-John Manche, planned to hold an event which would feature 3 formerly-gay youths who would be giving, according to the event description on Facebook, “their personal testimonies of how their life has been turned around by the love and power of Jesus Christ. From a life of homosexuality to a life of freedom from that lifestyle.”
News of the event outraged many, prompting a flood of condemnation on the event page set up on Facebook, which was ultimately withdrawn. Subsequently, a group of people sought to protest outside the ministry’s Żebbuġ base, only to be informed, by the police, that they would be arrested if they did so since they lacked permits.
But the Malta Gay Rights Movement is now planning to organise its own protest over gay conversion tomorrow, starting at 1830h.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and absolutely nothing that needs to be changed or improved. Such fairytale beliefs are making many people's lives miserable, and MGRM believes it needs to make its voice heard in this respect,” the movement said in a statement.
“The protest is being organised to send a message to LGBT people and their families that sexual orientation is something to be celebrated, not repressed.”
The protest is set to be held outside the Sapphire Suite in Mdina Road, Żebbuġ – where the River of Love Fellowship is based – and those planning to attend are being encouraged to bring rainbow flags, banners and placards – as well as their friends and supporters.
The Evangelical Alliance of Malta (TEAM), which the River of Love Fellowship forms part of, said that while it agreed with freedom of expression, it felt that the MGRM’s demonstration appeared to be attacking the freedom of expression of others and was therefore “non-essential.”
“While TEAM regrets any unintentional offense caused to the MGRM community, it does not see any cause for a demonstration by gay rights activists in this matter since there was no breach of their rights by the public proclamation of a few individuals who made a personal choice to change their lifestyles without any outside coercion. Rather it seems to us that these activists who are participating in the demonstration are trying to put pressure and drown out the rights and freedom of expression of others,” the group said in a statement.
TEAM defended the practice of gay conversion, stating that it held the biblical position towards homosexuality and that the bible had the power to transform rights. It also said that hatred was being stirred against the individuals who decided to change their lifestyles.
“We love everybody, just as God also does. However, we do not approve everything, especially those things that God calls sin. We believe that God has a specific reason and the right to call certain acts sinful. In this matter, TEAM is understanding and supportive of the River of Love community and Pastor Gordon John Manche. We kindly request the MGRM community respect the rights of freedom of expression to those who hold a differing view,” the association, which represents 14 evangelical churches and organisations, said.
The International Day Against Homophobia is being marked today, with MGRM volunteers set to hand out flowers to passersby outside the Valletta law courts to mark the event later in the day.
In a statement, Alternattiva Demokratika condemned attempts to convert gay people, and stressed that it was the only Maltese party to fully support an EU-proposed anti-discrimination directive.