A church in Swaziland (Eswatini) has suspended one of its pastors on suspicion that was bisexual.
The church in Siphofaneni, central Swaziland, suspended the married pastor after they heard leaked audio of a man saying he loved another man. Church authorities believed the voice belonged to the pastor.
‘I love you. Is it a crime to love someone,’ the voice on the recording is heard saying.
Swaziland criminalizes same-sex relations with its King describing them as ‘satanic’. Located in southern Africa, LGBTI people are routinely persecuted and discriminated against in Swaziland.
The Times of Swaziland reported that the other man in the recording took it to the pastor’s church elders. They then suspended him from all church activities.
‘The decision of the council of elders was that he was welcome to attend Sunday services but he would sit in the gallery as an ordinary member,’ said the church’s chairman.
The chairman said rumors about the pastor’s sexuality had circulated for the past year.
‘Such rumours even reached the ears of traditional authorities in the area. At some point, I remember the church committee being summoned to the royal kraal to answer questions on the allegations,’ he said.
In retaliation to the suspension, the pastor allegedly locked the church. This forced members to hold the Sunday service under a tree.
‘We are worshipping under a tree because keys to the church are with him (pastor). He claims that the church belongs to him yet the structure was constructed by members of the community,’ a church member told The Times.
Last year, small LGBTI organization, Rock of Hope, hosted Swaziland’s first Pride parade defying the law’s anti-gay laws.