Tonga royal family member speaks out against rugby player Israel Folau’s anti-gay views
A member of the Tonga royal family has spoken out against the homophobic views of rugby player Israel Folau.
The Australian rugby union player sparked a backlash in April after writing gay people would go to “hell” unless “they repent their sins and turn to God” on his Instagram page.
A number of people have criticised Folau for his anti-gay views, including the Honorable Frederica Tuita Filipe, the daughter of Tonga’s Princess Royal. Folau is Tongan by descent.
“Obviously the way we represent our interpretation of God’s word & love is different,” she wrote on Twitter.
“My silence was my attempt at respecting our different interpretations but I fear by doing that I’m encouraging the marginalisation of a group of people I love & serve as much as any other Tongan.”
“You’ve worked hard to be in a position of leadership, I was born into mine. I’ve seen how forgiveness, love & inclusion bring people closer to God. I hope the trials you face give you the strength to open your heart & mind to differing views,” she added.
Homosexuality is illegal in Tonga and carries a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment, but the Polynesian state has an active LGBTQ community.
Earlier this month, Folau said he stood by his beliefs and would not back down despite the backlash he had received after his comment, which was later removed from the social media post.
“I stand firm in what I believe in and that’s something personal with who I am,” he told the Australian Associated Press.
“That’s something that comes truly from the bottom of my heart. That doesn’t interfere with anything to do with my rugby and the guys around me.”
He added: “I understand everyone is entitled to their opinions and I’ve said what I’ve said in recent weeks. I leave it there.
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“I’ve been fine with how everything’s rolled out the last month. My focus is obviously on getting back out there on the field, which is an exciting time for me.”
This week, Folau posted a video to Twitter which warned against “tolerance” of same-sex marriage.
The clip features an anti-LGBT sermon by the deceased American evangelist David Wilkerson, who warns of “sexual perversion beyond description”.
Alongside the video, Folau wrote: “With great love i wanted to share this video in the hope that people watch it and think about it. Jesus is coming back soon and he wants us to turn to him through repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38) please don’t harden your heart.”
Folau has previously spoken out against same-sex marriage, writing on Twitter in September 2017: “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”