The GLOBAL INTERFAITH NETWORK on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (GIN-SSOGIE) is about to be established.
In a time when the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities all over the world are increasingly organizing themselves, demanding the space to exist, to meet and to find protection under the law, the forces against these rights are being mobilized. This is happening on both national and international levels. These forces claim to justify their fight with religious rhetoric, cultural claims and customary laws; arguing that sexual and gender diversity are foreign and evil imports. Dealing with these issues often brings controversy, condemnation, exclusion, internalized transphobia and homophobia, and can result in violence and hate crimes, often justified by religious and cultural beliefs. The irony is that it is often religious movements from outside, for example American Fundamentalists pushing national politicians and religious leaders in Uganda to make the already existing laws against LGBTI people even more severe, like the death penalty or life imprisonment.
People of all faiths
In such situations there is a strong need for LGBTI people from these countries and of all faiths to come together to share experiences of dialogue with religious leaders, both failures and successes, to build international solidarity and to strengthen our identities both as LGBTI people and believers. Strategic dialogues and consultations are critical among LGBTI individuals and groups in order to determine a way forward for advocacy of equal legal treatment, social opportunity, and safety that directly addresses the question of religious instigated persecution.
The ILGA world conference in Stockholm 2012 provided the opportunity to organize the 1st Global Interfaith LGBTI Conference ever, as a one of many pre-conferences. The impetus for the conference was the recognition of overwhelming violence and religious persecution of LGBTI people in the Global South. This conference centered the learned wisdom and voices of advocates from these regions. 39 people from 26 countries attended, representing 22 different organizations in the MENA region, Sub Saharan Africa, Pacific, US, and all parts of Europe, including the Balkan region and Eastern Europe.
Two of the most important outcomes of the conference were the decisions to create a Global Interfaith LGBTI Network and to build a strong collective voice and alliances working on issues of common concern. Several working groups were identified to work on the following areas:
- Develop further the structure and direction of the Network.
- Establish an online community for archiving, sharing and building analysis and experience.
- Develop resources on thematic issues:
- Guidelines for Dialogue with religious leaders
- Guidelines for creating safe spaces for the LGBTI communities
- Jewish/Muslim/Christian inclusive interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorra texts
- Integrating Sexuality and Spirituality for LGBTI people
- Ways to create safe spaces in the MENA region, etc.
- Prepare a 2nd Global Interfaith LGBTI Conference, with an even broader representation of regions and religions.
The participants expressed a strong need to meet again in about a year after the December 2012 ILGA conference. The value of the conference is both personal and political. Many of us work in contexts where our spiritual selves are divided from our political or LGBTI selves. The Conference, and the architecture of the network, provides a critical space for developing our awareness as LGBTI people of faith or LGBTI who are committed to addressing faith issues. The outcome is not only more confident LGBTI activists but also a stronger global movement empowered with sharper analysis and collective strategies.