the midst of the Israel-Lebanon conflict that began last month, thousands
of progressive lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer clerics
and religious activists — and our allies from all religious faiths — made
a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem for World Pride 2006.
A week-long, multi-faith conference, which ran Aug. 6-12 and was dubbed “Love
Without Borders,” was an international demonstration of LGBT dignity,
pride and activism. The aim was to combat homophobia on a global scale
as well as mobilize grassroots support for progressive political change
worldwide that has been hijacked by religious fundamentalists.
According to spokesperson Cathy Renna of Renna Communications, the purpose
of the event was “to show the world a way to be queer and a person
of faith, and to provide visibility to our issues in how faith intersects
with homosexuality that don’t get enough reporting in the media.”
One of the reasons why queer religious issues do not receive fair and balanced
reporting is how the media intentionally pits gay civil rights issues against
the religious beliefs of fundamentalist people.
“Very few voices of faith from the LGBT community are heard in the
media, and this conference aims to change the paradigm on that,” Renna
Worldwide fundamentalism has not only attempted to silence the voices of
LGBT people of faith, but it has also hijacked both the language and spirit
of all religions, thereby creating an intolerance toward LGBT people by
proselytizing a reactionary political agenda.
And the political agenda to stop World Pride did not go unheard without
the outcries of protest and picketing of Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities
united in opposition to the event.
Outraged at the prospect of an international celebration of queer love,
ultra-Orthodox Jews threatened violence with at least one rabbi promising
bloodshed. And the mayor of Jerusalem, an Orthodox Jew, tried to keep police
permits from marchers and assemblers in the city.
Given the ongoing conflict between Muslims and Jews, and the unwelcoming
response from the city to World Pride, many asked,
“Why Jerusalem?” when a city like Amsterdam would be a more
Let us remember that the first World Pride was in Rome in 2000 and received
lots of criticism from the Vatican.
From his balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the Pope bitterly
denounced the festival. “In the name of the church of Rome, I cannot
avoid expressing bitterness for the insult to the Grand Jubilee of the
year 2000 this event created and to the Christian values of a city that
is much beloved in the heart of Catholics throughout the world. The church
cannot be silent about the truth, because it would be unfaithful to the
creator God, and it would not help to discern what is morally fitting from
what is evil,” John Paul stated.
Many opponents of World Pride 2000 also saw the timing of the event as
an affront to Christians all over the world, and a desecration to the Roman
With the spotlight on Rome because of the millennial Holy Year celebration,
which brought along with it hordes of religious pilgrims, the Vatican made
several attempts to cancel the event, especially when the festival coinciding
with the Holy Week devoted to Polish pilgrims, the ethnic group Pope John
Paul II belonged to.
And let us not also forget that last year World Pride was cancelled. In
reaction, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force put out this statement:
“Homophobia has marginalized people throughout the world, creating
places of tyranny and violence toward people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender. This event in Jerusalem will be a testament of solidarity
in the movement toward equality, justice and full inclusion for LGBT persons
across the globe. It is our hope, indeed, our fervent prayer, that World
Pride 2006 will, as so well expressed in its mission statement, ‘demonstrate
to our community, to our neighbors and peers and to the world … that
our love and our pride can cross the harshest borders that divide people.’”
But Jerusalem was chosen because it both historically and symbolically
plays an important role in three major monotheistic religions — Judaism,
Islam and Christianity — collectively known as “Abrahamic religions” that
trace their origins to the covenant God made with Abraham in the Hebrew
And with religion being one of the driving forces behind many of the events
and attitudes that shape our present world, Jerusalem, as the capital of
Israel, stands as an international symbol of religious pluralism and a
demonstration of tolerance and equality for all human rights.
“I believe it is no accident that we are being called to Jerusalem
to celebrate the extravagant grace of God in a place where God is lifted
up by the three great monotheistic religions,” said Bishop Dr. Yvette
A. Flunder, senior pastor of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ
in San Francisco. “Each of our faiths has stories of people finding
their way through a wilderness of hatred and oppression, and we are stronger
because of it. I believe that same-gender loving people know something
of the journey though the wilderness.”
Right now the LGBT community is mired in a global wilderness of right-wing
politics, where our voices, at best, are muffled in mainstream society,
and, at worst, non-existent.
Our experience should not be seen as a permanent place for us, but instead
this should be seen as a place of transition and growth in redefining and
reshaping our present-day homophobic political and religious landscape.