Mauritius church condemns blocking of gay rights march

Port Louis (Mauritius) (AFP) –


The Catholic Church in Mauritius on Wednesday condemned the blocking of Saturday's gay pride parade in the capital Port Louis by hostile Muslim protesters.

"Regardless of one's moral beliefs about homosexuality, we would like to express our indignation at the way a LGBT parade that had police permission was obstructed by illegal protesters," said Cardinal Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port Louis, in a statement.

On Saturday, the Rainbow Collective, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, attempted to hold a Pride parade in downtown Port Louis, attracting around 200 people.

But when a group of Muslim Mauritians waving placards with anti-gay slogans gathered for a prayer meeting nearby march organisers decided to cancel their event fearing clashes.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth also condemned the illegal religious gathering.

"The rule of law must prevail and authorities will do what is necessary following this unacceptable and illegal demonstration," he said.

A police investigation is also underway into the incident.

Piat insisted on respect for the rights of others, adding that a small group of demonstrators did not represent all Mauritian Muslims.

"We have many friends among our Muslim brothers and sisters and we will not lump a group of demonstrators together with the entire Muslim community," he said.

The Council of Religions, which brings together representatives of all religions in Mauritius, echoed the message of tolerance and the rule of law.

Respect for the law and human rights, it said in a statement, "is not an option, it is an imperative for any society, for our society!"

Mauritius has a reputation for tolerance and has held gay events in the past.

The Indian Ocean island nation is a mix of religions with around half the 1.3 million people being Hindu, just under a third Christian and the remainder Muslim.