(TheBlaze/AP) — Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who in the 1980s was a prominent leader of the struggle to end South African apartheid, has made a strident spiritual statement in support of gay rights.
“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven … I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” Tutu said. “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”
Tutu spoke as one of the supporters of the United Nations’ first global outreach campaign to promote tolerance and greater equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals, which its human rights office announced Friday.
Called “Free & Equal,” it’s an unprecedented effort by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to change public attitudes around the world on issues that have bitterly divided the U.N.’s own member states.
The multi-pronged campaign – announced at a news conference in Cape Town, South Africa – will include videos and public-service announcements distributed through social media, a new website, a series of fact sheets, and engagement by celebrities well-known in different regions of the world.
There were multiple reasons for choosing South Africa as the news conference venue, including that it’s a leading nation on a continent where discrimination and violence against LGBT people is widespread.
In Cameroon, for example, two men were sentenced to prison this week for gay sex, and a gay rights activist was tortured and killed earlier this month in an attack his friends suspect was related to his activism. South Africa, in contrast, does not criminalize homosexuality and allows same-sex marriage, yet is plagued by extensive anti-gay violence, including frequent rapes of lesbians.
However, the new awareness campaign will extend worldwide, reflecting the challenges faced by gays in many countries.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin recently signed a law that will impose hefty fines for holding gay pride rallies or providing information about the gay community to minors. In Haiti, gay-rights leaders say their community has been targeted by a recent series of threats. In Montenegro, several hundred people on Wednesday attacked the Balkan nation’s first-ever gay pride rally, throwing rocks and bottles at activists while some yelled, “Kill the gays.”
Here’s a clip that features part of Tutu’s commentary, which commences at about the 1-minute mark: