This coming Monday, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. Once again, Catholics are organizing interfaith prayer vigils and services to remember the victims of anti-LGBTQ prejudices and hate crimes. The scripture theme for this year’s prayer vigils is “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
A blog post from organizers of the “Interfaith Vigil” website highlights events being held in several European and Latin America countries this year. The purpose of such vigils is to enact “a powerful way to say ‘no more’ to this unjust violence provoked be prejudices” in society and in churches. Organizers report on the growth of this movement:
“This initiative involves an increasing number of gay Christian groups, various Christian communities (Catholics, Waldensians and Baptists) and many organizations or church groups from several Italian cities. As a result, relationships between gay Christians and Christian churches have been strengthened and grown deeper, producing positive results. In 2007, 13 groups answered the call, and last year there were 22 vigils held in Italy.
“For the first time, ecumenical vigils for victims of homophobia also took place in Spain (in Madrid, Bilbao, Murcia, Valencia, Ciudad Real and La Coruna), in some South American cities and in Munich, Germany.”
As for Catholic involvement in the movement, organizers of the Interfaith Vigil website note that just over a decade ago, there were but a handful of Catholic-sponsored vigils, mostly in Italy. Now, they write, it is “important to realize that something is changing” for Catholics:
“Over the years, the prayer vigil experience has been positive. It has shown that, even if only a few people respond at first, you mustn’t stop knocking on the door.
“Do you remember the bothersome friend the Holy Writ talks about? All you need is a bit of patience and goodwill, always bearing in mind that you don’t want to persuade others or take over the world, but only try to share your hope. If we have done this, then others can too! So, this year again we will manage to get together in prayer in our city. Whether the group is small or large, it will be a great result nonetheless.”
Each year, organizers choose a scripture verse to guide remembrances. The following verse from John 15:12 was chosen for 2021 via an online poll: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.”
One option for a prayer put forward by the Interfaith Vigil website is a scripture scholar Luigi Santopaolo’s reflection on the eleventh Station of the Cross, “Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross.” Published originally as part of the Italian Bishops’ Conference’s booklet for Lent and Easter in 2021, the reflection reads:
“When they reached the place called The Skull, there they crucified him and the two criminals, one on his right, the other on his left (Luke 23,33)
“The nail did not stop my hand, nor could it hold my foot. How far I have come from the cross to the present day! Do not cry for me! The nails did not stop me. Weep for those who are still nailed to a cross, for those who continue to deliver prejudice and social stigma to public mockery. Weep for those who, even today, are condemned by society, for the weak and the most vulnerable, without judgment but with mercy.
“Before telling the woman taken in adultery to “go and sin no more“, I made sure that no one could harm her, I took care of removing the stone from the hands of her accusers. Are you sure you are doing the same with respect to the diversity of your brothers and sisters?
“May the differences in colour, culture, religion and sexual orientation not become for you a cause of hatred! Was not my cross enough? Why do you want to create new ones? Don’t you see me? And yet here I am, still crucified in unaccepted, unwanted and unloved diversity.”
If you would like to learn more about the Interfaith Vigils effort and how you can participate this Monday, click here. Materials are available not only in English, but Spanish, Italian, and French as well. For Bondings 2.0’s previous coverage of IDAHOBIT activities, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 14, 2021