Desmond Tutu joins hundreds of religious leaders in apologising for homophobia

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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Almost 400 global religious leaders from multiple faiths, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have signed a landmark declaration calling for an end to LGBT+ criminalisation and conversion therapies.

Organised by the Ozanne Foundation, the declaration was published ahead of the launch of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives during an international virtual conference on Wednesday.

It’s been signed by faith leaders from 35 countries and from 10 religions such as South African struggle icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Britain’s Bishop of Liverpool and a host of leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths.

The declaration asserts that “all human beings of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions are a precious part of creation and are part of the natural order.”

It acknowledges “with regret” that “some of our teachings have created, and continue to create, oppressive systems that fuel intolerance, perpetuate injustice and result in violence” and asks “for forgiveness from those whose lives have been damaged and destroyed on the pretext of religious teaching.”

The signatories go on to urge “all nations to put an end to criminalisation on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, for violence against LGBT+ people to be condemned and for justice to be done on their behalf.”

They further call for a ban on “all attempts to change, suppress or erase a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – commonly known as ‘conversion therapy’.”

The declaration follows the release of an update to the Ilga State-Sponsored Homophobia Report this week, which revealed that 69 UN member states continue to criminalise consensual same-sex activity.

Now retired, Desmond Tutu, 89, is one of the world’s most high profile religious leaders to vocally support LGBT+ equality. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has criticised African states for targeting people based on sexual orientation and gender identity and famously stated he would rather go to hell than worship a God who is homophobic.

Below is the full declaration:

Declaring The Sanctity Of Life And The Dignity Of All

  • We come together as senior religious leaders, academics, and lay leaders from around the world to affirm the sanctity of life and dignity of all.
  • We affirm that all human beings of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions are a precious part of creation and are part of the natural order.
  • We affirm that we are all equal under God, whom many call the Divine, and so we are all equal to one another.
  • We, therefore, call for all to be treated equally under the law.
  • We recognize with sadness that certain religious teachings have often, throughout the ages, caused and continue to cause deep pain and offense to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex.
  • We acknowledge, with profound regret, that some of our teachings have created, and continue to create, oppressive systems that fuel intolerance, perpetuate injustice and result in violence. This has led, and continues to lead, to the rejection and alienation of many by their families, their religious groups and cultural communities.
  • We ask for forgiveness from those whose lives have been damaged and destroyed on the pretext of religious teaching.
  • We believe that love and compassion should be the basis of faith and that hatred can have no place in religion.
  • We call on all nations to put an end to criminalisation on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, for violence against LGBT+ people to be condemned and for justice to be done on their behalf.
  • We call for all attempts to change, suppress or erase a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – commonly known as “conversion therapy” – to end, and for these harmful practices to be banned.
  • Finally, we call for an end to the perpetuation of prejudice and stigma and commit to work together to celebrate inclusivity and the extraordinary gift of our diversity.

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