Around the world, many faith communities and organizations mobilize on May 17th to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. These faith communities and organizations not only come together to highlight the intersections of faith and sexuality, to remember victims of homo/bi/transphobia and to stand against religiously-based homophobia and transphobia, but also, and predominantly, to raise the voices of progressive faith leaders in supporting the positive role of world religions and faith communities in shaping inclusive societies.
This year, the IDAHO Committee, together with the European Forum of LGBTQ Christian Groups, encourages individuals, organizations and faith communities to be a part of the Global Prayer Initiative - which aims to bring together different faith communities, denominations and groups to bring their voice to the IDAHO 2013 commemorations.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
One of the simplest and yet most powerful ways to be involved in the Global Prayer Initiative is to organize a vigil. Vigils can be a powerful tool to draw attention to thoughtless acts of intolerance, and to religiously-based homophobia and transphobia. Vigils carry a certain weight that is symbolic in so many contexts, whether religious, spiritual, commemorative or memorial. Consider drawing your faith community together in commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Sparking discussions and dialogue around homophobia and transphobia is also a great way that faith communities can bring about change in their places of worship. Interfaith communities also have the opportunity to bridge the divides between communities where homophobic and transphobic sensitivities still persist. Consider promoting a dialogue between different faith communities or religious denominations in creating a new platform - such as a workshop, conference, email list or prayer network - through which to exchange information, gather together ideas and promote collective actions.
Sending a thought or prayer on the internet is another simple and effective way to show your solidarity and to help get the message out. You could do this via facebook or twitter, perhaps by using the hashtag #IDAHOprayer. You could create a youtube video, to offer your thoughts, well wishes and prayers towards those who have faced, and continue to face, stigma and discrimination within their lives.
WHY IS YOUR PARTICIPATION IMPORTANT?
Your action is important, because:
- Your candle, however you express it, can drive out darkness and help raise public awareness of homo/bi/transpobia.
- Your prayer has the power to heal and to unite faith communities in fighting hatred, brutality and violence towards LGBTQI people
- Your action can help build alliances to further interfaith and inter-religious dialogue in your community, country or region.
EXAMPLES OF BEST PRACTICE FROM OTHER ORGANISATIONS
Here are some examples of successful initiatives aiming to combat against religion-based homophobia and transphobia in Christian communities.
THE CHURCH DECLARATION CONDEMNING VIOLENCE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS
Launched by COC Nederland (the oldest Dutch LGBTQ lobby organization) and LKP (the umbrella organization of the Christian LGBT movement in The Netherlands), a meeting was held in May 2010 to discuss the idea of producing a joint statement, condemning homophobic violence.
The statement's signing was preceded by a discussion, led by theologian and TV-presenter, Jacobine Geel. Press coverage was good.
In January 2012 the group met again, to discuss how they wanted to mark the first anniversary of the signing. They decided that they did not want to have such a high profile, public event. Instead they decided to mark the day with a special service. As IDAHO coincided with the Forum Conference in Amsterdam, a joint celebration of the first anniversary was arranged. A number of local representatives of church and secular organizations were invited to participate, together with many of the Forum delegates from over 20 European countries. This time they were also joined by a trans-person. Delegates were impressed to see how so many different denominations (among them Seventh Day Adventists and the Salvation Army) could work together on this very important topic. For many this was in very stark contrast to the situations in their own countries.
The group is planning a new theme called “What does a Safe community really mean ?”.
VIGILS FOR THE VICTIMS OF HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA
When the LGBT Christian group “Kairos” from Florence heard about the tragic suicide of a gay youth from Turin, they wanted to express their grief and anger. Together with other faith and homosexual groups in 14 Italian cities they started, in 2007, with the “Vigils of prayer for the remembrance of the victims of homophobia”.
In the following years, a number of faith initiatives were held in a growing number of cities around IDAHO on 17 May. Firstly, it was coordinated by the Italian website gionata.org (http://www.gionata.org) - an online center for discussion on faith and homosexuality managed by members of several Italian LGBT Christian groups, and since 2010 it has become a shared project of about 30 groups within the “Forum of Italian LGBT Christian Groups”. Since 2010 it has become a shared project of the approximately 30 groups which comprise the “Forum of Italian LGBT Christian Groups”.
The liturgy allows for the expression of the grief and anger of LGBT people about the violence they have to face within a religious framework. The pious form makes possible what otherwise is excluded, for example, from within the Roman Catholic Church: i.e. to talk boldly about the lives and loves of homosexual and transsexual people. The Vigils of prayer also challenge church complicity with homophobic and transphobic violence.The idea quickly spread over Europe and Latin America. Already in 2008, Vigils were held in cities from Spain and Ireland, but also in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela and in later years also in Germany, Malta and other countries.