It was just four months ago when LGBTQ people around the world stood in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. On June 12, the country’s largest massacre of LGBTQ people left 49 dead and 53 wounded. This tragedy made it clear that despite advances in LGBTQ civil rights, violence and hate still exist.
“The hatred, divisiveness and discrimination, and bullying, clothed under the guise of religious freedoms, ‘kids being kids’ or ‘homosexual activity’ being immoral, must stop,” said Father Charles Blanchard of Christ the Good Shepherd in Ferndale.
“Know that there is no time to hate, judge and marginalize people. When we choose to exact such a standard, know that you and I are unable to freely love. I ask you and others, whom we would know as informed and uninformed, to pray for the innocent victims and their families, actively work to ferret out institutional discrimination and challenge religious leaders to cease and desist in leveraging the Koran, the Torah or the Bible as a weapon of mass destruction,” Blanchard said. “From my vantage point, when an issue, ideology or belief becomes more important than the dignity of another human being, it’s mean and cruel.”
In an effort to make opposition to anti-LGBTQ violence visible in congregations nationwide, DignityUSA has organized an interfaith initiative known as Solidarity Sunday held annually the weekend before National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.
Since 1995, DignityUSA has advocated for respect and justice for all people in the Catholic Church and throughout the world regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Approximately 35,000 participated in the first Solidarity Sunday. The project rapidly expanded over the last 20 years to include people from all denominations and organizations as well as individuals, and is now observed in almost every U.S. state.
Solidarity Sunday, this year on Oct. 9, is dedicated to the memory of the many who lost their lives through violence. “Let us collectively party to be strong given the horrific, terroristic and murderous rampage at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando,” Blanchard said. “To family so violently affected by hatred, discrimination, homophobia and genderphobia, know that you’re loved and rest assured you are not alone.”
Nathan Dannison, senior pastor at the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo, explains how having faith and joining together in solidarity is a step toward peace and harmony.
“The undeniable truth of the Gospels is that God takes sides. And as much as we wish we were automatically on God’s team, often the church finds itself sitting with the Pharisees, arguing against Jesus’s good news of forgiveness, inclusion, hope, joy, and abundant life. The church believes she has a monopoly on words like marriage, family, kinship and love. Those words don’t belong to the church. They belong to God,” Dannison said.
“In order to be faithful to Christ, the church must leave its place of comfort and go to where the people are hurting. Our church in Kalamazoo had endorsed many unpopular theological positions. We were abolitionists, suffragettes, freedom riders, and today we embrace marriage equality. We do these things not because we are liberals, or intellectuals, or postmodern. We do them because we are Christians. We bring healing and joy where there is pain, liberation where there is oppression, and hope where there is despair. It is precisely our faith that gives us the power to say ‘no’ to homophobia, transphobia and bigotry. And we won’t quit until all our neighbors are loved, just as we are loved. Jesus demands nothing less.”
How to Participate
– Wear a Solidarity rainbow ribbon at all times, especially during religious services
– Pray for an end to anti-LGBTQ violence
– Educate your children, your faith community, your colleagues, and your friends about the need to stop violence against all people, especially LGBTQ people
– Take the Solidarity pledge online
For more information about Solidarity Sunday, visit DignityUSA’s website: http://www.dignityusa.org/article/solidarity-sunday.