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From the Office of the Moderator
Metropolitan Community Churches
For Immediate Release: 14 December 2012
Thank you all for coming to this remarkable meeting. What a meaningful way to commemorate Human Rights Day. I welcome all of the activists, supporters and others here today.
The very first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
All human beings – not some, not most, but all.
No one gets to decide who is entitled to human rights and who is not.
The United Nations has a proud record of combating racism, promoting gender equality, protecting children and breaking down barriers facing persons with disabilities.
We have a long way to go in all of these areas. But we are turning the tide on discrimination in both law and practice. Slowly, some old prejudices have started to dissolve.
Yet others remain in place, with horrendous consequences.
Around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are targeted, assaulted and sometimes killed. Children and teens are taunted by their peers, beaten and bullied, pushed out of school, disowned by their own families, forced into marriage … and, in the worst cases, driven to suicide.
LGBT people suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender identity at work, at clinics and hospitals, and in schools – the very places that should protect them.
More than 76 countries still criminalize homosexuality.
I am pained by this injustice. I am here to again denounce violence and demand action for true equality.
Let me say this loud and clear: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. They, too, are born free and equal. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their struggle for human rights.
I am proud that as Secretary-General I have a global platform to highlight the need to end violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The United Nations should lead by example. I recently reiterated to all senior managers that discrimination against staff on the basis of sexual orientation will not be tolerated. I have also asked that the UN’s rules and policies be examined to ensure that the rights of our LGBT staff are protected.
More and more governments are working to tackle homophobia. Last year, the Human Rights Council adopted the first UN resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, which expressed “grave concern” at violence and discrimination against LGBT people.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights published the first UN report dedicated to the problem, which was then debated at the Human Rights Council, marking another UN first.
The past decade has seen far-reaching reforms in Europe, the Americas and a number of Asian and African countries … and extraordinary shifts in social attitudes in many parts of the world.
I applaud Argentina for introducing some of the most progressive legislation in the world on same-sex partnerships and gender recognition. I am pleased that we are joined today by Blas Radi, from Argentina, who helped drive the gender identity law adopted there earlier this year.
I also welcome Olena Shevchenko who leads an important human rights effort in Ukraine.
In a number of countries, including Ukraine, draft laws have been proposed that would criminalize public discussion of homosexuality – potentially making meetings such as this one illegal. I deplore these kinds of measures wherever they are introduced. They threaten basic rights, feed stigma and lead to more abuse.
We are also pleased to have Gift Trapence, a prominent human rights defender from Malawi. When I visited Malawi in 2010, two young men had just been sentenced to 14 years of hard labour for the so-called “crime” of celebrating their wedding. At my request, the then President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them, on the very day when I asked him, but he defended criminal sanctions. Now under the new leadership of Her Excellency President Joyce Banda, Malawi is weighing possible changes in the law. I hope Malawians take the opportunity to turn a page.
We must all speak out against homophobia, especially those who are considered leaders in society as well as others in the public eye.
Let me say a big Bienvenido to pop sensation Ricky Martin. Muchas Gracias! You are a wonderful role model for LGBT youth and for all people. Thank you.
I am again honoured to share the stage with Yvonne Chaka Chaka – a global superstar and a champion of development, including as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and Roll Back Malaria. Thank you very much.
Yvonne, you are known as the Princess of Africa. Today, you are our Queen of Equality.
Our guests – and you here today – have helped to open a door. We cannot let it close.
It is an outrage that in our modern world, so many countries continue to criminalize people simply for loving another human being of the same sex. In many cases, these laws are not home-grown. They were inherited from former colonial powers.
Laws rooted in 19th century prejudices are fuelling 21st century hate. In other cases new discriminatory laws are being introduced.
These laws must go. We must replace them with laws that provide adequate protection against discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
This is not optional. It is a State obligation, based on the principle of non-discrimination – a fundamental tenet of international human rights law.
We also need a broad public education effort to spread understanding and counter fear.
When I meet with leaders from around the world I raise my voice for equality for LGBT people.
Many leaders say they wish they could do more. But they point to public opinion as a barrier to progress.
I understand it can be difficult to stand up to public opinion. But just because a majority might disapprove of certain individuals does not entitle the State to withhold their basic rights.
Democracy is more than majority rule. It requires defending vulnerable minorities from hostile majorities. It thrives on diversity. Governments have a duty to fight prejudice, not fuel it.
I am deeply grateful to the cross-regional LGBT core group of Member States for bringing us together. I hope many other countries will join you.
You and I and people of conscience everywhere must keep pushing until we realize the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all people. The freedom, dignity and equal rights that all people are born with – must be a living reality each and every day of their lives.
Thank you very much.
Tell Your U.S. Rep and Senators to SAVE Vital Services
Members of Congress will soon face big choices: will they make damaging cuts to nutrition, education, health care, housing, and more? Or will they prevent service cuts by asking the wealthiest 2 percent to pay more of their fair share in taxes? Will they favor defense contractors over human needs? Those concerned about promoting the common good, protecting the vulnerable, and rebuilding the economy have to speak out! Please send this email. We encourage you to change the text to reflect your concerns; or send it as is. But please be heard – and please forward this widely.
Click here to send an email to your Representative and Senators.
This is the text of the email people are asked to send (or they can edit the wording to personalize it):
Subject: Please prevent cuts to human needs programs; End upper income tax cuts
As your constituent, I urge you to follow these principles as you make budget and tax decisions: 1) protect low-income and vulnerable people; 2) promote job creation so all of us can share in restored economic growth; 3) increase revenues from fair sources; and 4) seek responsible savings by targeting waste in the Pentagon and elsewhere.
You can save vital services for low-income and vulnerable people by allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent to expire. More than $1 trillion will be saved over the next decade if these tax cuts end. Asking those at the top to pay their fair share in taxes will allow needed investments in jobs, education, nutrition, health care, and housing. These and other services will help us now, and build for the future.
In the coming months, please vote to allow the tax cuts for the top 2 percent to expire in January 2013, and preserve tax credits for low-income working families. Please vote to avert cuts now scheduled for January in programs that prevent poverty and meet human needs.
We can make the investments needed for the common good if you take these responsible steps. Thanks for your attention.
Rev. Boon’s and Phineas’ Chinese Wedding Banquet held at Dragon Dynasty Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur on August 4th. About 200 people were in attendance. Although many predicted there would be government or police interference, perhaps in an attempt to scare people away, the banquet went off without a hitch. Rev. Boon’s family, including his mother and sister, were in attendance.
Faith communities have long been on the front line of many responses to the challenges of HIV. At an interfaith pre-conference leading up to the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C., people from many of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, will be exploring how their communities can further contribute to building health, dignity and justice in the context of HIV, and how they can fight stigma, rather than contribute to it.
The interfaith pre-conference, titled “Taking Action for Health, Dignity, and Justice”, will take place 20-21 July at Howard University, Washington, D.C. Speakers will include Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (USA); Maria Ziwenge, a young woman living with HIV from Zimbabwe; Ambassador Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS Coordinator, and many other religious leaders and representatives in the global HIV response. Around 400 participants are expected to attend.
Three plenary sessions and numerous workshops will explore ways faith communities can use both advocacy and on-the-ground responses to address the root causes of vulnerability to HIV and promote more just, equitable and inclusive societies.
Many other faith-based organizations are preparing events in advance of AIDS 2012, demonstrating the diversity and active engagement of people of faith in responding to the HIV pandemic. An interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral will be held Saturday, 21 July, in conjunction with the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display. A pre-conference for Roman Catholic participants will follow the interfaith pre-conference. Side events on ending sexual violence and exploring sexuality, justice and HIV will be featured on Friday evening, 20 July.
Details are below. More information on faith-based events held before and during AIDS 2012 can also be found at: http://iacfaith.net/interfaith
Interfaith Pre-Conference plenary program and speakers
All sessions below held at the Cramton Auditorium, Howard University.
Friday, 20 July
Opening Session, 9-10am
Peter Prove, Executive Director, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
Pernessa Seele, CEO and Founder, The Balm in Gilead
Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, USA
Maria Ziwenge, Young Women’s Christian Association, Zimbabwe
Plenary 1: Dignity, 10:30-12:00
[Focuses on inclusive religious and community responses which treat all people with respect and examines some of the social and legal barriers that prevent inclusion in HIV programs.]
Nick Stuart, President and CEO, Odyssey Networks (Moderator)
Swami Advayananda, International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV or AIDS (INERELA+), Réunion Island
Pablo Torres Aguilera, dance4life, Mexico
Bishop Yvette Flunder, United Church of Christ City of Refuge, USA
Faghmeda Miller, Positive Muslims, South Africa
Rev. MacDonald Sembereka, INERELA+, Malawi
Special Lunchtime Session: The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Faith-Based Organizations: Partners in Sustaining Community and Country Leadership on Global HIV/AIDS, 12:45-1:30 pm
Ambassador Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS Coordinator
Dr Thomas Frieden, Director (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Saturday, 21 July
Plenary 2: Health, 9:00-10:30am
[Examines the challenges in scaling-up anti-retroviral treatment and highlights opportunities for faith-based organizations to help increase access to treatment, both through advocacy and practical hands-on involvement.]
Canon Gideon Byamugisha, INERELA+, Uganda (Moderator)
Esteban Burrone, Medicines Patent Pool, Argentina
Pacem Suzen Kawonga, Community of Sant’Egidio – Dream Program, Malawi
Dr Ronald Lalthanmawia, Christian Medical Association of India
Ruth Messinger, President and Executive Director, American Jewish World Service
Plenary 3 and Closing Session: Justice, 2:00 – 3:30 pm
[Explores the attitudes, policies, social inequalities and practices that continue to make people on the margins of society most vulnerable to HIV and challenges participants to address these issues.]
Moono Nyambe, Global Network of People Living with HIV, Zambia (Moderator)
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Centre, USA
Rev. Nyambura Njoroge, Programme Executive, World Council of Churches, Kenya
Dr Rosalee Velloso Ewell, World Evangelical Alliance, Brazil
The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is the lead international sponsor of the interfaith pre-conference, working in partnership with The Balm in Gilead as the lead national sponsor. Additional co-sponsors include INERELA+, Religions for Peace, Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS, Catholic Medical Mission Board and the American Jewish World Service.
Other faith-based events in advance of AIDS 2012
Catholic Pre-Conference on AIDS
20 July, Welcome reception, 4:30-6:30 pm, Catholic Charities USA
21 July, 2:30-6:00 pm Catholic University of America
22 July, 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Plenaries will address Faith, Spirituality and Pastoral Care in the midst of HIV and the Future Sustainability of Church-Sponsored HIV Programming: Holding on to Hope in the Face of Funding Cutbacks and Flat-lining. Workshops will address a youth-led, person centred response to HIV; HIV responses developed for different cultural and geographic contexts; examples of best practices in the Americas; men’s involvement in prevention of mother and child HIV transmission, religious efforts towards zero new infections among children. See http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/page.aspx?pid=2544
We Will Speak Out Coalition Event
Friday, 20 July, 6:00-8:00 pm, Ballroom, Blackburn Center, Howard University
Testimonies from faith leaders and survivors of sexual violence and community organizations who wish to engage and inspire participants to seek an end to sexual violence across communities around the world through a faith-based community response. See www.wewillspeakout.org
Sexuality, Justice and HIV, a Faith Roundtable
Friday, 20 July, 7.30-9.30 pm, Cramton Auditorium, Howard University.
Bishop Yvette Flunder will moderate a conversation focusing on the dynamics of sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging affirming faith perspectives at the intersections of justice and HIV. The community is invited to participate in the conversation with an international panel of faith leaders. See http://faithinactioncoalition.org/ntl-fia-hiv-aids/
“From Darkness to Light”: An Interfaith Service of Hope and Commitment
at the time of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display
Saturday 21 July, 7:00 pm, Washington National Cathedral
This interfaith service of worship calls upon us to remember those we have lost and those who continue in the struggle to live with dignity and worth in the face of HIV and AIDS. Throughout the service faith leaders and faithful persons from around the world will give witness to their faith which has supported them in their journeys while we consider who we are and whose we in the midst of this pandemic. Tickets for those not registered for the interfaith pre-conference (handling fee only) available at: http://www.nationalcathedral.org/events/Quilt20120721.shtml
Background for Editors
International AIDS Conferences (IAC) are the peak forum for those working in the field of HIV and AIDS, including scientists and researchers, policymakers, health professionals, people living with HIV, civil society activists and faith-based organizations. They are held every two years and often attract over 20,000 participants. AIDS 2012 is the 19th IAC, and the first time in 22 years that the conference has been held in the United States, following the lifting of entry restrictions for people living with HIV. See also www.aids2012.org.
Media interested in arranging interviews or attending one or more sessions of the interfaith pre-conference should contact Sara Speicher,
For more information on the interfaith pre-conference and other faith-based events at AIDS 2012 visit www.iacfaith.net .
Twitter @e_alliance or #iacfaith.
Facebook: Live the Promise Campaign: https://www.facebook.com/Livethepromise
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance: https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicaladvocacy
The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is the most inclusive international advocacy network of churches and Christian organizations, with members representing Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. Our members are committed to speaking and acting together on issues of common concern, currently HIV and AIDS and Food. As an alliance of 80 churches and church-related organizations located around the world with members and constituents in the tens of millions, we are called by our faith to stand for justice, peace and a sustainable world. www.e-alliance.ch