Religious leaders around the world are gathering at a UK government-backed event to call for an end to the criminalization of LGBT + people and a global ban on conversion practices.
More than 370 prominent figures from 35 countries representing 10 religions signed a landmark declaration ahead of a December 16 conference in a move that will highlight the divisions within world religions.
The signatories include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and eight other archbishops, former Catholic President of Ireland Mary McAleese, more than 60 rabbis and Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office was scheduled to host the conference at its headquarters in Whitehall before the event was forced online by London’s move to Covid Level 3 restrictions. James Duddridge, Minister for Africa, was will address the meeting.
Westminster Abbey is hosting a private celebration after the event, led by the Deans of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral.
The statement calls for an end to the criminalization of LGBT + people and to “conversion therapy” – attempts to change, remove or erase a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
It also recognizes that “certain religious teachings have often, through the ages, caused and continue to cause profound pain and offense” to LGBT + people, and have “created and continue to create oppressive systems that fuel intolerance, perpetuate injustice and result in violence ”.
The UK government funded the conference although it broke the 2018 pledge to ban conversion therapy. In July this year, Boris Johnson said plans to ban the “absolutely heinous” practice would be brought forward following a study.
Questions of sexuality and gender identity have caused bitter divisions within the Anglican World Communion, led by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for decades. Church leaders in countries like Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda support traditional Bible teaching on the issue.
However, Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London and Church of England number three, sent a message of “heartfelt encouragement” to the meeting. “When Christian teachings are distorted to incite violence, it is a terrible abuse of the gospel message,” she said.
The declaration was signed by the leaders of the Anglican Church in Scotland and Wales. Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, is co-chair of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT + Lives, which will be launched at the conference.
Bayes said: “For too long, religious teachings have been misused – and still are misused – to cause deep pain and offend those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex. This must change. “
Another signatory, Dilwar Hussain, president of New Horizons in British Islam, said he had pushed Muslim organizations to engage in LGBT + justice, but admitted it was “a challenge”.
He added: “There is a lot of talk in Muslim communities about equality, prejudice, discrimination… If we really want to address the issues of justice and injustice in our society, we have to have a morally coherent argument. . ”