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SALZBURG GLOBAL LGBT* FORUM

Past Program

Worldwide, LGBT people are insisting on their inclusion in religious and cultural traditions; and religious congregations across all denominations have begun to interpret their own beliefs in more inclusive ways. Such positive changes are still nascent, and they must be supported and expanded to achieve LGBT equality globally. 

In 2020, the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum began a new initiative to address issues of religion, cultural history, and LGBT inclusion (and exclusion), convening LGBT human rights defenders and cultural and religious leaders across faiths, geographies, and generations. This blog series seeks to foster an online discussion about the inclusion of LGBT* people in faith communities and religious and cultural traditions.

* LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is currently widely used in human rights conversations on sexual orientation and gender identity in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as exclusive of other cultural concepts, contemporary or historical, to express sexuality and gender, intersex and gender non-conforming identities. 

 

PROGRAM OVERVIEW

In 2015, thirty leaders representing Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh organizations issued a formal joint expression of support for ending poverty by 2030. In 2017, many of the world’s most prominent religious leaders made a joint statement encouraging people everywhere to make friends across religions and to counter the idea that people view each other’s religions with distrust or disdain ― and to potentially even reduce violence conducted in the name of religion. In March 2019, participants at an interfaith conference emphasized the role of religions in contributing to the implementation and achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

All of these initiatives emphasize the potential positive impact of religion, and over centuries, faith-based organizations have proven adept at providing quality public services at scale, making valuable financial contributions toward social improvements, educating and advocating for positive change, and developing trust across otherwise conflicting groups (racial, ethnic, ideological, geographic, etc.).

However, despite the “leave no one behind” ethic of the SDGs, and the core beliefs of tolerance and love at the heart of most of the world’s religions, many religious communities continue to exclude LGBT people from their ranks, ignore their role in religious and cultural traditions, and actively contribute to the suffering afflicting LGBT communities. A globally connected movement towards more intolerance, on the basis of religion and the “protection of the family” and with a strong anti-gender agenda, makes itself felt in Europe, Russia, parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia. In fact, LGBT people remain some of the world’s most vulnerable in matters of health, economic wellbeing, education, political and civic participation, and personal security and violence. This makes it all the more important that they are included in the benefits sought by these interfaith appeals and religious calls to action. 

Thankfully, such historical exclusion is beginning to dissolve. Worldwide, LGBT people are insisting on their inclusion in religious and cultural traditions; and religious leaders and their congregations across all denominations have begun to interpret their own beliefs in ways that are more inclusive. In a 2018 Declaration of the National Consultation on Interfaith Engagement with Human Sexuality and Gender Diversity, the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) emphasized “the innate ability of each faith community to understand, accept and celebrate gender, sexual and sexuality identities.” 

The Church of Sweden, in collaboration with the Global Interfaith Network, has produced two books addressing human sexuality and human dignity from the perspective of a range of faith traditions. Such positive changes are still nascent, however, and they must be supported, promoted, and expanded to achieve the potential they represent for advancing equality globally. To this end, in July 2020, Salzburg Global Seminar will begin a new initiative of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum to address issues of religion, cultural history, and LGBT inclusion (and exclusion) in religious communities: “Faith Is…?” 

People
Partners
Blog Series
Reports
Faith Is...?
Related News
Participants
Lena Ahrens
Advisor, Sector Programme Human Rights, GIZ, Germany
Brenda Alegre
Lecturer, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong/Philippines
Tashi Choedup
Resident Sangha Member, Root Institute for Wisdom Culture, India
Victor Ciobotaru
Member, ACCEPT Association, Romania
Ecclesia de Lange
Director, Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), South Africa
Lisa Edwards
Jewish lesbian activist, USA
Ahmed El Hady
Research Scientist, Princeton University, Egypt / USA
Harold Kachepatsonga
Program Officer, Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+), Malawi
Nursyahbani Katjasungkana
Chair, Board of Directors, APIK, Indonesia
Joy Ladin
Gottesman Professor of English, Yeshiva University, USA
Miriam Leidinger
Advisor, GIZ, Germany
Vu Lieu
Executive Director, ILGA ASIA, Thailand
Borah Lim
Senior Pastor, Sumdol Presbyterian Church, Republic of Korea
Lebohang Matela
Regional Coordinator, FOCCISA Health and Gender Justice Network, Lesotho
Dennis Mseu
Executive Director, Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+), Malawi
Saira Mujtaba
Broadcaster, India
Thomas Ninan
General Coordinator, ESHA Project of the Christian Service Agency, India
Jayne Ozanne
Director and Founder, Ozanne Foundation, United Kingdom
Paola Paredes
Photographer and Activist, Ecuador
Brandan Robertson
Executive Director, Metanoia, USA
Sudesh Reddy
Communication Specialist, United Nations Childrens Fund, South Africa
Nanoo Sandhu
Programme Support Officer, United Nation's International Labour Organization (ILO), United Kingdom
Sanjay Sharma
Program Director and Board Member, Blue Diamond Society and Global Interfaith Network, Nepal
Scot Sherman
Executive Director, Newbigin House of Studies, USA
Sukhdeep Singh
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Gaylaxy Magazine, India
Ian Southey-Swartz
LGBTI Programme Manager - Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)
Simon Petitjean
Senior Advocacy Manager, The Global Interfaith Network (GIN), For People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions, SSOGIE, France
Giti Thadani
Writer, Sakhi, India
Saskia Wieringa
Professor, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
SPONSORS
PARTNER
Format

This blog series is part of the Global Online Forum on LGBT* and Faith, which, in addition to this blog series, will also comprise of two online gatherings of Fellows of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum and a public webinar.

A new blog will be published each week, with a different Fellow tackling the questions: 

  • What is needed for religious communities and leaders to be instrumental in promoting the wellbeing, equality and inclusion of LGBT people in faith communities and society? 
  • How do LGBT people, today and throughout history, enrich and change the religious communities of which they are a part? 

The blogs will be available to read on SalzburgGlobal.org and we invite all interested readers to post comments on Facebook (the link to each relevant post is included in each blog). To receive the latest blog straight to your inbox, please subscribe to our newsletter: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/LGBT/newsletter  

The Global Online Forum on LGBT* and Faith will showcase and document that a respectful, humane and global conversation on LGBT equality and inclusion in and across faith communities is not only possible, but indeed has already begun in many places. By bridging divides, the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum aims to strengthen inclusive cooperation between religious and LGBT leaders, and their communities, and to expand global connections for support and knowledge-sharing within and beyond the program, supporting the next generation of LGBT leaders. The lessons of what is working will also serve as a roadmap for our continuing work on the Faith Is...? initiative.
 

Participation

All blogs in this series are written by Fellows of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum. Occasional guest writers may also be invited to contribute. Fellows of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum represent a global range of religious and cultural backgrounds and welcome participants from all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. Professionally, the Forum includes:

  • Activists, community leaders, and emerging young voices advancing LGBT equality;
  • Religious leaders including clergy and laity, and leaders of faith-based organizations;
  • Artists, journalists, filmmakers, social media experts, photographers, researchers, and writers.

We thank our blog contributors for their generosity in sharing their personal stories.

We welcome participation in the subsequent online discussion from all interested parties.
 

Topic Overview

In 2015, thirty leaders representing Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh organizations issued a formal joint expression of support for ending poverty by 2030. In 2017, many of the world’s most prominent religious leaders made a joint statement encouraging people everywhere to make friends across religions and to counter the idea that people view each other’s religions with distrust or disdain ― and to potentially even reduce violence conducted in the name of religion. In March 2019, participants at an interfaith conference emphasized the role of religions in contributing to the implementation and achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

All of these initiatives emphasize the potential positive impact of religion, and over centuries, faith-based organizations have proven adept at providing quality public services at scale, making valuable financial contributions toward social improvements, educating and advocating for positive change, and developing trust across otherwise conflicting groups (racial, ethnic, ideological, geographic, etc.).

However, despite the “leave no one behind” ethic of the SDGs, and the core beliefs of tolerance and love at the heart of most of the world’s religions, many religious communities continue to exclude LGBT people from their ranks, ignore their role in religious and cultural traditions, and actively contribute to the suffering afflicting LGBT communities. A globally connected movement towards more intolerance, on the basis of religion and the “protection of the family” and with a strong anti-gender agenda, makes itself felt in North America, Europe, Russia, parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia. In fact, LGBT people remain some of the world’s most vulnerable in matters of health, economic wellbeing, education, political and civic participation, and personal security and violence. This makes it all the more important that they are included in the benefits sought by these interfaith appeals and religious calls to action. 

Thankfully, such historical exclusion is beginning to dissolve. Worldwide, LGBT people are insisting on their inclusion in religious and cultural traditions; and religious leaders and their congregations across all denominations have begun to interpret their own beliefs in ways that are more inclusive. In a 2018 Declaration of the National Consultation on Interfaith Engagement with Human Sexuality and Gender Diversity, the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) emphasized “the innate ability of each faith community to understand, accept and celebrate gender, sexual and sexuality identities.” 

The Church of Sweden, in collaboration with the Global Interfaith Network, has produced two books addressing human sexuality and human dignity from the perspective of a range of faith traditions. Such positive changes are still nascent, however, and they must be supported, promoted, and expanded to achieve the potential they represent for advancing equality globally. To this end, in August 2020, Salzburg Global Seminar will begin a new initiative of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum to address issues of religion, cultural history, and LGBT inclusion (and exclusion) in religious communities: “Faith Is…?” 

A full report of our online convening which took place on Zoom on September 15, 2020 can be downloaded here

A full report of our online convening which took place on Zoom on October 20, 2020 can be downloaded here

A full report of our online convening which took place on Zoom on November 24, 2020 can be downloaded here

The 2020 LGBT* and Faith report can be downloaded here

Faith Is...? Initiative

Launching in 2020, the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum will begin an exploration of the ways in which religious and cultural leaders, congregations, and LGBT people can together form inclusive and supportive communities of understanding. 

Starting with a series of online activities in late 2020, the Faith Is…? initiative will build on the experience gained in the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum’s “Family Is…?” Project, which explored the definition of family and the position of LGBT family members, including in their families of birth, their families of choice, and the families they raise.

Participants in the Global Online Forum on LGBT* and Faith will contribute to the co-design of the forward strategy of the “Faith Is…?” initiative. This strategy will identify opportunities for the project to influence public debate and shift mindsets through the creation and dissemination of stories, publications, video testimonials, and social media campaigns. The Forum will reflect upon ways that can influence specific audiences including community, cultural, and religious leaders; national, international, and local policymakers; media multipliers; foundations; and others. 

Note: This initiative was planned to launch in July 2020 in Salzburg, Austria. Given the uncertainties surrounding global travel in the near to mid-term due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we did not think it feasible to hold a globally representative in-person meeting of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum in 2020. The transformation of the in-person program to an online program is with full active support of our funders.