Malaysia's gay community begins to push the limits

Published: September 2, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2, 2010 (AFP) – When Malaysia’s only openly homosexual pastor announced he was establishing the nation’s first gay church, the proposal was met with a torrent of outrage and criticism.

Reverend Ouyang Wen Feng faced down threats to block the plan by government and religious leaders who said it would encourage homosexuality — still a crime punishable by 20 years in jail in the Muslim-majority nation.

The church he co-founded has however been operating quietly in suburban Kuala Lumpur for the past three years, drawing a group of gay Christians for Sunday services and bible studies.

Ouyang’s battle is part of a campaign being fought on many fronts in Malaysia, where there is a growing sense of activism among the gay community which is beginning to mobilise to fight for its rights.

"We are working on encouraging more people to join the church, for Christians to come out and live authentic lives," says the pastor, who was married for nine years until he "came out" publicly in 2006.

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