P U B L I C S T A T E M E N T For Immediate Release: February 20, 2007
Leader of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) Expresses Outrage Over Attacks on Gays in Jamaica Issues Urgent Call For Prayers, Actions To Support Jamaicans Targeted For Violence And Abuse
Statement by Rev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson Office of the Moderator Metropolitan Community Churches
A series of escalating attacks against gays and lesbians in Jamaica has prompted our call today for island officials to guarantee the human rights and safety of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons across Jamaica.
Today I am calling upon people of conscience around the world to speak up and to support those who are struggling for human and civil rights in Jamaica.
The lethal combination of homophobia and AIDS-phobia must stop. We cannot stand by and watch as our sisters and brothers are tormented, beaten, raped and killed solely for being who they are. There are leaders in Jamaica, including political and religious leaders, who have failed to speak up. Such silence is not acceptable. Now is the time for all people of goodwill to speak out for justice and against intolerance. No person of conscience should remain silent in the face of the continuing horrific attacks on gays in Jamaica.
The Valentine's Day attack on three gay men at a pharmacy in Tropical Plaza in St. Andrews parish of Jamaica is part of a pattern of violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons. This pattern of anti-gay violence, which has included public beatings and numerous murders of gay people, has often flown under the radar of the Jamaican press and received scant attention from civil authorities.
According to the gay rights group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), three men were shopping in a local pharmacy in the parish of St. Andrew when two of them were targeted by an unnamed woman who reprimanded them for what she termed "distasteful" behavior. According to eyewitnesses, she left the store and made a phone call that resulted in a large crowd gathering at the Monarch Pharmacy. The crowd called for the three men to be "sent out" to face them. The incident is tragically reminiscent of the infamous biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, found in the 19th chapter of the Book of Genesis.
The management of the pharmacy locked the three men inside for their safety until police arrived. To get the men out of the pharmacy and into a waiting police van, officers fired tear gas into the crowd. One of the men reported he was gun-butted by the police and another was hit in the head with a stone. All three men report they were repeatedly taunted by the police officers with anti-gay slurs.
Since the Valentines Day attack, the tragedy and violence have continued to grow. Over the last few days, other gay people reportedly have been attacked in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, and at least one gay person in Montego Bay has been murdered. And on Sunday, there was an unconfirmed report that one of the three men attacked on Valentines Day had attempted suicide in the aftermath of the attack.
Metropolitan Community Churches, which recently opened a worshipping community in Jamaica, offered to relocate the gay men to a safer venue. The men have also been encouraged by their friends to go into hiding until their safety can be assured. We are deeply concerned for the safety of these men, and for the well-being of thousands of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons in Jamaica -- a country designated by Time magazine as "the most homophobic country in the Western Hemisphere." One of the young men, whom we will only identify by his first name of Gareth, said, "They may kill me, but I am dead already if I do nothing." He said he will stay and continue to fight for the human rights of all Jamaicans, including its lesbian and gay citizens.
While viewed throughout much of the world as a vacation paradise for its pristine beaches, the sad truth is that Jamaica harbors the world's highest murder rate. Over the past several years, Metropolitan Community Churches has confirmed a pattern of abuse, hostility, attacks, and murder of persons solely because they may be perceived to be gay or lesbian, from the mutilation of gay rights activists Brian Williamson and the murder of Steve Harvey, to the killing of two lesbians whose bodies were left in a ditch and whose known slayer was for days left unquestioned by police, to the father who upon learning of his young son's gay identity, invited a crowd to the boy's school to lynch him.
In light of these developments, I have asked the Global Justice Team of Metropolitan Community Churches, led by Rev. Pat Bumgardner, to monitor the situation in Jamaica and to assist the Office of the Moderator in developing an on-going plan to support human rights for the gay community there. I have also designated Rev. Robert Griffin as MCC's representative to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and groups across Jamaica.
On behalf of Metropolitan Community Churches, I am today calling upon people of goodwill everywhere to stand up and say, "Enough is enough!" There can be no moral or Biblical justification for the targeting and slaughter of any group of people simply because of who they are. It was wrong to target Jewish people in World War II, and it was shameful to target U.S. citizens of Japanese origin for internment during that same time. It was wrong to target ethnic groups in Eastern Europe and Chesnya; it was wrong to target the Hutu and Tutsi tribes of Rwanda for genocide in the 1990's; and it is wrong to target the people of Darfur in the Sudan today. And such targeting is just as morally reprehensible when used against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people in Jamaica.
It is imperative that the world raise a united voice once again -- this time against the violence, hatred, and murder that is targeted against God's gay children, not only in Jamaica, but also around the globe.
Today I call upon political leaders and spiritual leaders in Jamaica to work publicly for an end to identity-motivated violence.
Today I call upon all people of goodwill to speak out on behalf of those whose lives are marginalized and jeopardized by hatred, bigotry, and violence in Jamaica.
Today, I call upon people of faith to hold these three men who were attacked on Valentines Day in your prayers, along with a growing number of individuals and families across Jamaica whose lives have been touched by a pattern of anti-gay violence.
Today, I call upon the leaders of all religious communions to join in declaring Ash Wednesday a day of fasting and prayer for an end to the violence against gay people in Jamaica.
And today I call for concerned people everywhere to write directly to Jamaica's Prime Minister, The Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller, by e-mail at _HPM@opm.gov.jm_ (mailto:HPM@opm.gov.jm) . Ask her to speak out publicly against the violence, to establish a tone of respect and tolerance for all life, and to guarantee the human rights and safety of Jamaica's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.
This Lenten season is an appropriate time for people of goodwill everywhere to change course and live together in ways that honor the sanctity and value of all life.
/signed/ Rev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson Office of the Moderator Metropolitan Community Churches
For Additional Information, Or To Arrange Media Interviews, Contact:
Rev. Pat Bumgardner Chair, MCC Global Justice Team (212) 629-7440 E-Mail: _RvPatMCCNY@aol.com_ (mailto:RvPatMCCNY@aol.com)
Rev. Robert Griffin Special Assistant to the Moderator Tel. (954) 462-2004 Cell. (301) 992-7957 E-Mail: _RevRobertGriffin@MCCchurch.net_ (mailto:RevRobertGriffin@MCCchurch.net)
Rev. Jim Birkitt MCC Director of Communications Cell: (310) 625-4177 E-Mail: _JimBirkitt@MCCchurch.net_ (mailto:JimBirkitt@MCCchurch.net)
Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches offers positive, affirming Christian spirituality to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons, along with their families and friends, through local congregations in 26 countries. To learn more about MCC, visit _www.MCCchurch.org_ (http://www.MCCchurch.org) or write to _info@MCCchurch.net_ (mailto:info@MCCchurch.net) .
Metropolitan Community Churches P. O. Box 1374 Abilene, Texas 79604
E-Mail: _info@MCCchurch.net_ (mailto:info@MCCchurch.net)
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