NEW YORK CITY -- An international human rights campaign seeking an end to the on-going hate crimes, violence and murder of gays and lesbians in Jamaica will include a public demonstration and press conference at the Jamaican Consulate (767 Third Ave., NYC) beginning at 12 noon on Valentine's Day.The world-wide faith communion of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) is sponsoring "Call For Love" rallies at Jamaican embassies, consulates and high commissions around the globe to demand an end to the violence that is endangering the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jamaica."New York City's "Call For Love" rally will bring together faith communities, human rights organizations, local activists, and concerned citizens to raise visibility for the plight of gay and lesbian Jamaicans," said The Reverend Pat Bumgardner, senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of New York.
Endorsing and participating groups include Human Rights Watch, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center, Lavender and Green, UNITY Fellowship, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Renewed Life Ministries, and Queers for Economic Justice, according to Rev. Bumgardner."On a day devoted to love, we're taking a stand against hatred," said Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator of the MCC denomination, which has churches in 28 countries. "For too many years LGBT people in Jamaica have faced a horrific campaign of harassment, intimidation, violence, ostracism, hate crimes and even death." Citing a brutal January 29th attack in Greenvale, Manchester, Jamaica, where a club-carrying, machete-wielding mob forced their way into the private home of three gay men and attacked them, Rev. Wilson said, "On this Valentine's Day, people of goodwill across the globe will band together to demand an end to hatred and the violence it perpetrates." According to Rev. Bumgardner, who also serves as chair of the Global Justice Team of Metropolitan Community Churches, the January 29th incident was the latest in a long series of documented attacks against gays and lesbians stretching over many years. "Most of these anti-gay crimes have received scant attention from Jamaica's civil authorities and most have gone under-reported by the Jamaican press," said Rev. Bumgardner.In the Greenvale incident, a mob of 20 people surrounded a home chanting anti-gay slogans and demanding that three gay residents vacate the property. The mob then broke-in to the home, attacking the gay residents with clubs and machetes. Two of the men were seriously wounded and required hospitalization, including one man whose ear was cut off. A third man is still missing and presumed dead. Police were called at the time of the incident but failed to arrive for over 90 minutes."Gay people in Jamaica have suffered a long history of religiously-inspired and socially-sanctioned violence," said Rev. Wilson, "and it must end now. It is time for the government of Jamaica to act to protect the lives and safety of its LGBT citizens, and it's time to end the use of religion as a justification for hatred and violence." In addition to the New York City event, the Valentine's Day "Call For Love" campaign will included demonstrations, protests, press conferences and prayer vigils from Pretoria to London, Miami, Toronto, Los Angeles and Philadelphia."We will be calling upon The Honorable Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister of Jamaica, to immediately authorize a thorough investigation into this most recent act of hatred and the simultaneous failure of law enforcement agencies to hold anyone in the mob accountable," said Rev. Bumgardner, "and we're calling on the Jamaican government to protect the rights and safety of all their citizens."According to Rev. Bumgardner, the "Call For Love" rally will issue the following demands: 1. That religious leaders use their pulpits to condemn the violence and to speak out against using the Bible and other sacred texts to "justify" harming and taking human life.2. That all political leaders and members of the police force in Jamaica uphold their sworn duty to equally protect and serve all Jamaican citizens. 3. That people of goodwill in Jamaica and around the globe end their silence and speak out on behalf of tolerance and mutual respect as the values we most cherish. Metropolitan Community Church of New York (446 W. 36th St, NYC) is a member congregation of Metropolitan Community Churches, the world's largest and oldest Christian denomination with a primary, affirming ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons. More than 225,000 persons annually attend programs and services of the Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, often referred to as "The Human Rights Church" for its commitment to social justice as an integral expression of Christian faith.Additional information on the demonstration at the Jamaican consulate is available by calling (212) 629-7440
To Arrange Media Interviews WithThe NYC Demonstration Organizers, Contact:The Reverend Pat BumgardnerOffice Tel. (212) 629-7440Cell: (646) 265-8138E-Mail: GlobalJustice@MCCchurch.net