On May 17th 2011 we will stay up late together praying for the victims of homophobia
“But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (Acts 10,28). This year the gay Christian groups chose this verse for the vigils of prayer against homophobia which will take place the week before May 17th (the international day against homophobia).
The vigils were born in Italy five years ago after the gay Christian group from Florence, Kairos, launched an appeal, but nowadays they are held all around the world, in Venezuela, Chile, Germany and Spain.
Why are there so many attendants? We can probably chalk it up to the sheer structure of the vigils where there’s not only the remembrance of the victims of homophobia, but also a message of hope.
Usually every vigil starts by reading stories about victims of homophobia taken from the Internet and newspapers or hearing who went through those tragedies. Besides these fragments of violated lives, during the vigils positive episodes of the Gospel are read because where violence seems to be the winner one is aware of the importance of love, where intolerance reigns one can experience the sense of Christian welcome, where fear is felt one holds on to faith.
After sharing evidence and a long spell of silent meditation interrupted by songs and prayers, here comes the moment when people talk about how the “relieving” message of the Gospel helped them to beat homophobia.
There are plenty of examples: many mothers after the initial rejection of the news about their kids’ homosexuality became the defenders of their rights; priests now tell why they decide to open the gate of their churches to homosexuals and several coming out stories told after many years of silence and loneliness.
The importance of the Vigils is maybe due not only to the chosen formula, but also to their structure, an ecumenical place where believers can meet, talk and exchange ideas.
As a consequence, the bonds between homosexual believers and their Christian communities become tighter and tighter: no wonder the Vigils aim to be a bridge between homosexual believers and their faith communities.
Glancing at the increasing number of organizations and churches that, year by year, join the event can be astonishing and generate spontaneous considerations.
Organizing a vigil is never easy. Despite all the odds you should never give up if you intend to set up a vigil in your own community.
You will need to face rejections, embarrassing silences and “better if not”; that’s for sure, but you shouldn’t let yourself down at the first hindrance.
If no answer comes around, for the Vigils why not to write and pass on an open letter to your church? Don’t worry if there’s no immediate reply, it will come sooner or later.
In 2007, when the Vigils of prayer for the victims of Homophobia were first set up, almost any of the Catholic communities took part in the event. Most of the communities which showed up belonged to the Methodist, Baptist and Waldensian church and their communities hosted these Vigils that in other cities took place in private houses.
The second year the first Catholic parishes turned up and in the third year they doubled in number. The fourth year even the Archbishop of Cremona wanted to attend the vigil in his town with his parishioners.
For the Vigils many gay Christian groups came out and tried through their stories to make understand that homosexuals are not a social category but people that, like anyone else, sit in pews in our churches.
In Italy the Vigils of prayer to remember the victims of Homophobia will be this year organized with the help of Gionata, the Italian project about Faith and homosexuality, and the European Forum of the Christian LGBT groups.
Just now the men of good will from Spain and South America have been invited to join one of the many vigils that will be held in a Latin country. Let’s stay up together not to forget.
This is also a way to change people hearts and minds in the name of a more equal society.