The January 31, 2017 letter from religious officials in the Bahamas, Guyana, St. Maarten, St. Vincent, and Trinidad and Tobago, asserted that the Obama administration’s State Department deployed coercive measures to normalize same-sex marriage and elevate LGBT issues at the expense of human rights.
However Bennet Charles of the LGBT organization here, United and Strong, has described the letter as being sad and almost hypocritical.
The United and Strong Communications and Advocacy Officer recalled that during the first week in February, religious leaders from several Caribbean countries met in Trinidad to discuss playing a greater role in advancing issues related to HIV and AIDS care in the region.
The LGBT official told the Times that the agenda item was a big issue because of the impact of HIV and AIDS within the LGBT population.
He also made reference to the issue of violence against women and girls.
“Religious leaders within the Caribbean region have recognized the fact that people are losing faith in their religious leaders,” Charles told the Times.
He asserted that the once dominant religious organisations in the Caribbean are losing their members.
“I think they are very scared that people are becoming a lot more liberal and more open-minded when it comes to understanding how we accept and in some areas tolerate people of different sexual orientations – people of different religious persuasions,” the United and Strong official explained.
Charles told the Times that the very administration of President Donald Trump has threatened to stop support to the International Family Planning Association, an organization the LGBT official said has been doing ‘immense good’ for women of the Caribbean region.
“There are so many other issues that we wish the religious leaders in the Caribbean would have asked for support from the Trump administration, but they choose to single out one specific issue because they believe that they are being threatened and they know that they are being threatened,” he stated.
Charles said Caribbean religious officials believe that the issues related to same-sex marriages and discussion represent North American policy.
But he told the Times that religious leaders need to understand and face the fact of what members of their congregations are going through, including persecution from within the ranks of their own religious organisations.
“Why are persons moving faiths, becoming more evangelical rather than hard line Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists – why is this happening?” Charles said.
He declared that as the only LGBT organization in Saint Lucia, United and Strong will continue to be the voice of those who are persecuted and persons against whom religions have turned their backs, forgetting that ‘each and every one of these persons is a child of God.’
Charles said he hoped Caribbean religious leaders will be willing to sit down, have ‘meaningful’ conversation with LGBT and human rights organisations and stop remaining mute on issues affecting the region.
“Instead of hiding behind a letter and trying to get Trump to do your work for you, we need you to get out as religious leaders and start meeting the people and understanding and dealing with the issues they are facing because they are members of your flock,” he stated.
According to Charles, those members of the flock are the ones who go to church every day.
He said they are lost sometimes and are trying to seek God.
“They look to you religious leaders for guidance but sadly, this guidance comes in the form of prejudice – ‘ You cannot be a child of God and be LGBT Gay or lesbian’ we think this is hypocritical,” the United and Strong official told the Times.
Charles expressed the hope that when all is said and done, Caribbean people can live as one despite differences in race, culture or sexual orientation.
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