In a time when Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities all over the world are organising themselves and demanding the protection under the law, continued criminalization of LGBTI identities, justified with religious rhetoric, cultural claims and customary laws, are instigating religious persecution and overwhelming violence against LGBTI people, especially in the Global South.
The impetus for the first gathering of LGBTI people of faith from different religions at the 2012 ILGA World Conference, was the conscious choice to centre the learned wisdom and voices of the LGBTI people from the Global South, dealing with these harsh realities daily.
The initiative to establish a Global Interfaith Network (GIN), to provide safe space to convene, document best practices, develop resources and together create local, regional, and international strategies for the decriminalization of LGBTI identities, was born. And to be successful GIN needed to be legitimate and relevant to all faiths and all local contexts where religion is used as a justification for discrimination against the LGBTI community and beyond.
This ethos continued to inform the leadership of the GIN Steering Committee, the composition of participants at the second global conference planned in Johannesburg, South Africa, 22 to 26 January 2014, the creating of an online community that was, and remains, accessible to and reflects the strategies of Global South LGBTI people of faith, even as we seek ways to resist modern systems of colonization and erasure through careful leadership, funding and accessibility choices.
The ILGA world conference in Stockholm 2012 provided the opportunity to organize the 1st Global Interfaith LGBTI Conference ever, as a one of many pre-conferences. The impetus for the conference was the recognition of overwhelming violence and religious persecution of LGBTI people in the Global South.
This conference centered the learned wisdom and voices of advocates from these regions. 39 people from 26 countries attended, representing 22 different organizations in the MENA region, Sub Saharan Africa, Pacific, US, and all parts of Europe, including the Balkan region and Eastern Europe.
The participants expressed a strong need to meet again in about a year after the December 2012 ILGA conference. The value of the conference is both personal and political. Many of us work in contexts where our spiritual selves are divided from our political or LGBTI selves. The Conference, and the architecture of the network, provides a critical space for developing our awareness as LGBTI people of faith or LGBTI who are committed to addressing faith issues. The outcome is not only more confident LGBTI activists but also a stronger global movement empowered with sharper analysis and collective strategies.