United Nations: Interfaith Event – Ethics of Reciprocity – LGBTIQA Peoples

United Nations: Interfaith Event – Ethics of Reciprocity – LGBTIQA Peoples

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation hosted an unprecedented gathering at the United Nations of Interfaith and Spiritual leaders, diplomats and human rights experts in a project called the Ethics of Reciprocity (EOR).

On Thursday, Oct 26 , 2017 the International Fellowship of Reconciliation hosted an unprecedented gathering of conservative & progressive religious leaders, diplomats and human rights experts in a project called the Ethics of Reciprocity (EOR). The International Fellowship of Reconciliation has a long history of engagement at the intersection of gender and peace building and has a long history of advocacy against violence and discrimination on the basis of gender. With millions of people around the world suffering increasing amounts of violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, IFOR is proud to host this important conversation. EOR was envisioned by IFOR’s representative to the United Nations Dr. Patricia Ackerman.

Present at the high-level meeting were:

UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour

Representatives from UN Member States

The Chair and Members of the NGO Committee on the Family

Several UN agencies
UN Special Rapporteur in Cultural Rights, Karima Bennoune

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed
Dozens of religious NGOs and LGBTIQ faith-based organizations

This is the first time LGBTIQ faith leaders will be formally addressing communities at the UN. Religious leaders participating at the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue hail from various countries and faith traditions:

Yvette Abrahams – South Africa  – Indigenous African 
Murilo Araujo – Brazil – Christian
Tusina Ymania Brown – Samoa – Christian
Bishop. Pat Bumgarder –  USA – Christian
Rev. Brian Byamukama – Uganda –  Christian
Rev. Martin Kalimbe – Malawi – Christian
Kochava Lior Lilit – Australia – Jewish
Shuhrat Saidov – Tajikistan –  Muslim
Abubakar Sadiq Yussif – Ghana – Muslim
Pearl Wong – Hong Kong – Christian
Jason Carson Wilson – USA – Christian
Bishop. Pat Bumgarder –  USA – Christian

A number of conservative, moderate, and progressive religious organizations such as C-Fam, The Salvation Army, The Lutheran Church, numerous Catholic religious orders in consultation with the UN including Sisters of Mercy, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Big Ocean Women, many other are attending. Noticeably absent from the consultation will be the Office of the Holy See at the UN, the Vatican. Father Roger Landry, Attaché, has stated he “doubts they will attend.”

Remarks by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights – Andrew Gilmour

Thank you to the organizers of today’s event – particularly Reverend Ackerman and Geronimo Desumala – and to the Arcus Foundation for their support.

I like the title you chose for today’s discussion: the “Ethics of Reciprocity”. The idea that we should treat others as we wish them to treat us – often referred to as “The Golden Rule” – finds echoes in all of the world’s major religions – especially those represented here today.

I want to commend the organizers for the lengths they have gone to to bring people of conflicting views on LGBTI issues – including some who have spoken publicly in the past of their discomfort with the subject.

We’ve never before had so many faith leaders from different communities gathered here at the UN with the express purpose of discussing how to approach the challenge of protecting LGBTI people from violence and discrimination. So this is an important first.

Our Office – the UN Human Rights Office – has pushed hard for Governments to do more to safeguard the rights of members of the LGBTI community and to address high rates of violence, discrimination and social exclusion that affect millions of LGBTI people around the world.

We have done so because the evidence tells us that every day LGBTI people are attacked and even killed because of who they are and whom they love.

We have done so because in countries right around the world, being gay or trans or intersex means that people get treated differently – and unfairly – including in the workplace.

And we have done so because every day, LGBTI young people – especially adolescents at school – face brutal and relentless bullying because they don’t quite fit traditional gender stereotypes. Tragically, many of those young people end up being driven out of school, running away from home, and become isolated, depressed – sometimes suicidal.

As people of conscience – let alone as human rights advocates – none of us can be satisfied with the status quo. Change is needed if people are to be protected from this kind of intimidation and violence.

And things are changing. We are making progress. At the UN, some 112 countries and counting have now accepted UN recommendations to change their laws and take other measures to protect LGBTI people from violence and discrimination.

There is of course still widespread resistance – more so in some parts of the world than others. Time and again the most common arguments raised against change have to do with culture, tradition and – above all – religion.

Faith has long been a source of both solace and suffering for LGBTI people. Solace because many continue to cherish their faith communities, and suffering because too many LGBTI people have been forced to abandon their places of worship in the face of hostility from religious leaders.

From a legal perspective the situation is relatively clear cut. Freedom of religion is a protected right. You – and we – are absolutely entitled to subscribe to whatever religious belief we hold dear – nobody should be able to take that away or punish us for it.

But – and it’s a crucial “but” – nobody’s right to freedom of religion and belief should be used as justification to take away someone else’s rights. Or, to put it another way, even if someone might sincerely believe that gay people are wayward and that religion dictates they should be rounded up or imprisoned, that does not justify gay people being actually rounded up and imprisoned.

The sad reality is that in societies all around the world, religion is used as a pretext for oppressing LGBTI people and for taking away their rights. While plenty of religious leaders are trying to turn the tide and appealing for a more inclusive approach that cherishes LGBTI people like anyone else, their voices are all too often drowned out by more populist leaders.

In some cases, they actively encourage violence and hatred in the name of religion – whether it’s the U.S. pastor who travelled to Uganda to incite hatred, or the shaykh who posts videos online explaining how to kill gay men. And those are extreme but, sadly, not isolated examples. It’s a long way away from the ethics of reciprocity.

I hope that today’s discussions may offer a chance to start a different sort of dialogue – one that might even help all of us here understand better those who view these issues differently. It’s a chance, above all, to listen to one another and to try to put ourselves – whoever we are – in the shoes of people who strongly differ with us.

I’d like to thank all of you for being here, and thank you for your willingness to listen to me – but most importantly to one other.





See Also, UN Expert’s Report on action needed to stop violations of LGBT people’s rights worldwide

Zoom Meeting with participants