Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss key issues in Africa

October 6, 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Oct. 6 began a three-nation, eight-day visit to Africa during which he hopes to discuss the persecution and harassment of Christians with Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe.

"My visit to Africa is not political, it is a pastoral visit. What difference that will make, I cannot tell now," Williams said upon arrival in Blantyre, Malawi's commercial capital.

Williams' visit to Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia comes at the invitation of the Archbishop Albert Chama of the Anglican Province of Central Africa. During the course of the week, Williams will meet with bishops, clergy and parishioners to celebrate the life and ministry of the Anglican Church in the region, according to a statement from Lambeth Palace.

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has experienced controversy since 2007, when then-bishop Nolbert Kunonga, criticizing what he said were liberal attitudes toward homosexuality, tried to remove the Diocese of Harare from the Anglican Communion, the worldwide community of Anglican churches.

"We cannot escape the discussion of homosexuality, but discussing it does not mean we have made up our minds to change," said Williams. "But since the 1980s, the Anglican Communion has declared its unhappiness with persecution, violence, and prejudice against homosexuals."

"There are some Anglican communions, two provinces in particular from North America, that have a relaxed view of this topic, but they are a minority in the church as a whole," said Williams.

Williams visits Malawi just a year after a court there gave an openly gay couple a 14-year jail sentence. The sentence was overturned after Malawi leader Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them.

"I will be telling president Mutharika when I meet him that the reprieve given to the homosexual couple convicted early this year was welcomed in the eyes of many people outside Malawi," said Williams.

An Oct. 7 press release issued by Lambeth Palace is available here.

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