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New collective formed in Chennai to fight religious bigotry

Source: bornlikethis.org

Republished from Queer Ink.

A meeting of the Chennai Rainbow Coalition spells good news for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community who belong to the Christian faith. On Saturday, a new collective called Christians Against Homophobia was formed to “register opposition to those who use (Christianity) to spread bigotry and prejudice against those of different sexual orientations and gender identities” according to a press release that emerged soon after its formation.

The collective comprises both, queer and heterosexual members of Lutheran, Roman Catholic, CSI, Assembly of God and other denominations, and called upon fellow Christians to not reject family members who are queer.

The timing could not have been better. A rally in support of Section 377 is set to take place on Marina beach on January 5. Another, organized by the Army of Jesus, took place on Saturday in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan.

According to posters put up on a social networking site, the rally to be held in Chennai is being organized by a group that calls itself Christians Against Homosexuality, and seeks to ‘Save India from God’s wrath’ and ‘To save India and its rich family culture from homosexuality.’

This flies in the face of the message sent out during the Theological round table on Sexuality held in December 2009 in Kolkata which appealed to the Christian community to “Sojourn with sexual minorities and their families without prejudice and discrimination, to provide them ministries of love, compassionate care, and justice”.

Ajay Gabriel Sathyan, a 27-year-old member of the newly-formed coalition quoted Reverend George Zachariah of the Department of Theology and Ethics at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, Chennai, whose statement he said, is a clear indication that not all members of the Christian faith are opposed to homosexuality. “A group of people cannot and will not be allowed to hijack the conversation about homosexuality and the Bible,” Sathyan added.

Following the historic Delhi High Court verdict that decriminalized homosexuality Reverend Zachariah had said in a sermon in August 2009, “We can either continue to remain as an inhospitable religious club—a hostile community as the rapists of Sodom in Genesis 19, committing violence against the sexual minorities – or we can become a just and inclusive rainbow community celebrating our God given diversities by welcoming those who are different from us into our midst to experience Christian fellowship in a deeper way.”

The Marina Beach rally poster, which quoted the Bible to condemn homosexual activity, went up on a social networking site on Saturday. However, several people left comments criticizing the un-Christian attitude of the organizers, and it was subsequently taken down.

When contacted by Queer Ink, Felix Moses (25) an IT consultant and one of the organizers of the rally said, “The event has been organized by a group of five or six Christians who are joining hands to oppose homosexuality. We are not against homosexual people, but we want India to escape god’s wrath, which is why we have asked people to join us.”

C. Umashankar, a 1990 batch IAS officer is expected to inaugurate the function. Though legally a Hindu, Umashankar calls himself Christian ‘by faith’. When asked whether he was concerned about breaking Section 508 of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes invoking divine displeasure (as the rally’s poster does) to make a person act/ behave a certain way, he said, “(If there is a problem) We’ll handle it”.

The rally comes in the wake of leaders of other religious groups coming out in support of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises non-procreative intercourse. A group of them met in New Delhi on December 29 to oppose the government’s decision to review the Supreme Court judgment.

However, the LGBT community has also found support from several religious leaders. Responding to the Dec 11, 2013 judgment of the Supreme Court, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai was quoted as saying: “[T]he Catholic Church has never been opposed to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, because we have never considered gay people criminals. As Christians, we express our full respect for homosexuals. The Catholic Church is opposed to the legalisation of gay marriage, but teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse.” Gracias is also a member of the eight-member Council of Cardinals formed to advise the Pope Francis, who had famously stated last year, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

The newly-formed collective will hold a press conference January 5 at noon at Sahodaran, No. 27. New no.75, 3rd St Extn, Railway colony, Aminjikarai, Chennai 600029.

For further details contact L Ramakrishnan at LRamakrishnan.lists@gmail.com +91-98415-57983

Orinam notes:
Thanks to the Queer Ink team for permission to re-publish this from their site.

Full text of the Christians Against Homophobia may be viewed here.

More information on Christianity and Sexuality may be found on Orinam’s resource page http://orinam.net/resources-for/religion-and-faith/christian-perspectives-on-lgbt-issues/

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