Written by Gregg Brekke
The UCC's HIV and AIDS Network (UCAN) has released a statement in observance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Marking the May 17, 1990, date when homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization, the day of recognition has grown to include statements from governments, civil rights organizations and religious institutions.
UCAN's statement is reprinted in its entirety below.
Statement on the 2011 International Day Against Homophobia
May 17, 2011
Homophobia continues to create real places of vulnerability throughout the world, including the United States. In April 2011, the U.S. Department of State released the 2010 Human Rights Report which stated there was an "escalation of violence, persecution, and official and societal discrimination" against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as other vulnerable groups. [U.S. Department of State Human Rights Reports for 2010 (Released April 8, 2011), 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices]
Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary-General, and UNAIDS have reported that where homophobia thrives, HIV thrives, not because HIV is a gay disease, but because fear and hate related to sexuality imposes silence which drives the epidemic underground, creating barriers to information, treatment, care and support. This makes clear, that homophobia threatens public health.
Regrettably, religion has been and continues to be a major source of homophobia and Christianity is no exception. There are still many Christian leaders and communities who foment homophobic values, in spite of the teachings of Jesus, who tells his disciples to love not only their neighbor, but also their enemy; and calls on them to "do unto to others as you would have done unto you."
However, among a growing number of faith communities, there is a clear and growing momentum for combating homophobia and creating safe spaces of extravagant welcome and inclusion in both church and society.
In this past year, people around the world poured out their compassion in response to the tragic suicides among several young people who had experienced discrimination and harassment related to their real or perceived sexual orientation. You-tube is now filled with "It Get's Better" video testimonies from leaders and others encouraging young people to hang in there and find the support they need. The Uganda Parliament, once again gave serious consideration to an anti-homosexuality bill that included the death penalty, but a significant global response, which included several faith communities, supported the successful advocacy of Ugandan coalitions to keep the bill from being voted on. Yet, laws that criminalize sexual orientation remain on the books in Uganda and more than 70 other countries.
The International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) is an important opportunity to deepen our understandings of homophobia and its impact not only on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people, but also on the safety and well-being of the whole community. IDAHO is a significant time to strengthen our commitments, build on collaborative efforts and increase our capacity to work effectively to root out homophobia wherever it exists in our communities and throughout the world.
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer
UCAN, Inc., (United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network)