By Laure BroulardPosted on 23-10-2019Modified on 23-10-2019 at 11:23

Based in a popular district of Kigali, this Pentecostal church preaches "radical inclusion" by opening its doors to homosexuals, often rejected and stigmatized by the country's religious communities.

At the microphone, Albert Nabonibo starts in the treble while around him the congregation applauds, dances and resumes in chorus. A few weeks ago, however, this Rwandan accountant gospel enthusiast thought never again to sing in a church. In August 2019, he was in the headlines of the local and international press for confessing his homosexuality on a Christian YouTube channel. " I was tired of hiding. This coming out was a way to overcome my fear and set an example, "he explains.

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Soon, hate messages flow, he is asked to leave his job and he no longer feels welcome in his church. " If they know you're homosexual, churches consider that your music can not serve God and you can not come to the congregation, " he sighs.

It was finally thanks to the Amahoro human rights organization that Albert Nabonibo was able to reconnect with the gospel. The Rwandan NGO's mission is to enable marginalized people to have a place of worship. Two years ago, the partnership between a local church, the Church of God of Africa and Rwanda, and a church founded in the African-American community, TFAM, was born. which advocates the opening of the congregation to all, including LGBT people.

A pro-LGBT preach

Sitting on a few dozen plastic chairs, the faithful are hanged on the lips of Bishop Joseph Tolton, who came this Sunday especially from New York. With a white dress, a gold cross around the neck and a trendy laptop, he sings a frantic, openly pro-LGBT preaching: " Make room for homosexuals, for transgender people, for the poor, for women, for all marginalized! He shouted. In response, alleluias sound.

Here, everyone is welcome: young mothers, quarantines, but also dreadlocks, tight jeans and earrings. That's what conquered Lucie, a young Rwandan working in the humanitarian field: " I chose this church because it does not preach exclusion. In my opinion, homosexuals were simply created as such, "she explains.

" Spiritual reconciliation "

" We are doing spiritual reconciliation work, presenting to the world the original message of Jesus Christ, which is a message of radical inclusion ," adds Bishop Joseph Tolton. " Does his church ensure he opposes the US conservatives' hold on the global development of evangelical churches " and their " influence on societal developments in some African countries ".

A young chorister in the evangelical TFAM church in Kigali. © RFI / Laure Broulard

An allusion to, among other things, the links between the Ugandan government and the American evangelical milieu, accused of being at the origin of growing homophobia in the country. In 2009, a Ugandan MP presented to the Parliament an infamous bill providing for the death penalty for " aggravated homosexuality " cases. Although the law has never been passed, the living conditions of LGBT people in Uganda have since deteriorated dramatically.

In Rwanda, nothing like it. The country does not penalize homosexuality, making it an exception in the region. When Albert Nabonibo came out this summer, he was even supported by a government minister who wrote on Twitter: " All Rwandans are born free and equal in rights and freedom, and remain so, " also encouraging the singer to continue the gospel.

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Yet, discrimination is still commonplace in the country. Patrick, 24, says he has a lot of trouble getting a job and being chased out of several choirs to be " too feminine ". " With the government, there is no problem. It is society that rejects us , "he explains. For him, TFAM is more than a church: " It changed my life. Here, I sing without fear in front of people like me, people who applaud me and who recognize my talent, "he says. This Sunday, the young man comes on stage with a smile, surrounded by four other singers. They form " his new family, " he says, a place where he can be totally himself.

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