On 10 May 2021 a group of faith leaders sent ‘You are Muted, Unmute Yourself:’ An Open Letter to South African Church Leaders on the Plight of the LGBTIQ+ People.
As We Will Speak Out South Africa, we apologise unreservedly to you who have sent the open letter and to all those amongst us who identify as LGBTIQ+. You are us. And yet we have failed to join hands with you in speaking out against the sin of exclusion and stigma, and especially for the senseless murder of at least 8 members of the LGBTIQ+ community in 2021 alone. We have been silent, although we claim to be inclusive and we call others to speak out. In so doing, we have been collaborators and co-conspirators against the very essence of our creation as human beings created in God’s image.
Homophobic culture begins and ends with us: From our platform within local communities, people of faith potentially play a vital role in either promoting homophobia or ending it. There is no neutral ground.
Jesus never excluded anyone from fellowship with God, and he stood firmly on the side of those deemed the outcast, the ‘unholy’ and the unacceptable. Jesus was not afraid to speak truth to power, and he paid the supreme price.
Of course, all of us as people of faith condemn murder and violence. But excluding people of diverse gender identities and expressions is itself a form of gender-based violence and cannot be excused in the name of our religion or tradition. Jesus condemned the sin of judgement and exclusion over 10 times more often than any sexual sin. He even went so far as to say:
“You have heard it said…, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5: 21-22)
WWSOSA is a coalition of people of all faiths who stand in solidarity with all people, regardless of gender, faith or any other identity or preference. We speak out against any form of gender-based violence as a sin.
But we need to do more than speak out. As people of faith, we need to look within ourselves, and root out homophobia in any form and celebrate every human being as created in the image of God. Then we can begin to become truly safe and healing spaces for all. Whatever the cost.