The St George's Cathedral says it has been inundated with complaints over a pride flag that has been flying at the church premises since the mid-1990s, standing in solidarity with the LGBTQI+ community.
Numerous calls have been made to the cathedral office, with the callers expressing outrage that the flag was “integrated with a place of worship”, the church said.
In a shocking turn of events, a group of young people stormed the premises and took down the flag last week.
While the cathedral verger was able to take back the flag with the help of the public, Warden on behalf of Cathedral Council, Nolundi Luwaya said the incident was regrettable.
“As the Cathedral Council, we are disappointed in the manner in which these young people chose to express their dissent. It is concerning that they did not approach the Cathedral and seek to engage about the matter of the pride flag.
“The Cathedral has always been a community founded on the central tenet of equality for all.
“The flag has flown in front of the Cathedral since the 1990's. As the Cathedral Council, we are guided by the spirit of Archbishop Tutu, who strongly rejected homophobic sentiment, comparing it to the type of prejudice shown during apartheid. A difference of opinion is necessary for healthy debate, but taking it upon themselves to remove the flag was a disconcerting step,” Luwaya said.
Sonke Gender Justice co-executive director Bafana Khumalo said they stand in solidarity with the Anglican church on their stance premised on love, respect, and dignity for all.
“It was brave of the Anglican church to post the flag outside of the Cathedral as a symbol of solidarity with the vulnerable and marginalised in our society.
Their act was a prophetic witness about the love of God, which is unconditional.
“It is true that not all people identified with this bold public message of witnesses, but it helped open up a creative discussion not only in the Anglican church but within the broader family of faith.
“I think it is important to understand why this is happening now and involving young people.
“We are all aware that since the enactment of the anti-homosexual law in Uganda, we have witnessed a resurgence of hate speech and targeting of gay rights in many countries. SA is no exception in this regard,” he said.
Communications officer at Triangle Project Ling Sheperd said: “It is very disappointing that people are focusing on a pride flag when we should be focusing on the corruption and the crime in our country. We have always maintained that human rights aren’t negotiable and LGBTQI+ rights are human rights. It is disappointing to see that the discrimination of others is still manifesting in a modern South Africa”.
The cathedral said it was raising funds to install a security camera overlooking its parking lot going forward.