Mary McAleese and religious leaders demand an end to 'conversion therapy'

In a joint declaration organised by Ozanne Foundation,  global faith leaders acknowledged how religious teachings have caused harm to the LGBTQ+ community.

Mary McAleese wearing a blue jacket, midspeech, she has joined a call along with global religious leaders to ban conversion therapy

Almost 400 religious leaders and representatives, including former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, have called for all countries to ban the harmful practice of ‘conversion therapy’ and legalise same-sex relations. 

In a joint declaration organised by charity organisation Ozanne Foundation, faith leaders and representatives from 35 countries renewed calls to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Their statement marks the launch of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBTQ+ Lives, which will be made at a virtual conference on December 16. 

The joint declaration follows the publication of ILGA World’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report 2020. According to these findings, 69 United Nation member states still, outlaw same-sex relations. 

Director of Programmes at ILGA World, Julia Ehrt, addressed the challenges facing LGBTQ+ people in 2020, “For our communities, safe spaces dramatically shrunk overnight. Some governments took advantage of these circumstances and stepped up their efforts to oppress, persecute, scapegoat, and to violently discriminate against us. In many places where laws were already a cause of inequality, things have only got worse.”

Following the report’s publication, numerous religious leaders and representatives have spoken out against this widespread discrimination. McAleese described the joint statement as “a small step towards countering [homophobia].”

McAleese further stated, “But it’s a necessary step to remind the faith systems of the world and people of faith that they have an obligation to their fellow citizens who are also entitled to the full dignity of their humanity and their full equal human rights.”

The declaration also acknowledges how religious teachings across the world have deeply hurt many LGBTQ+ people. The Ozanne Foundation is dedicated to changing this so as to provide a more inclusive environment for people of faith. 

Co-founder of an LGBTQ+ inclusive mosque Imam Muhsin Hendricks stated, “I think the Muslim community is ready for this conversation. I’m currently training with six imams from different parts of Africa and the openness to look at this issue [is incredible]. I’m really amazed and excited because ten years ago this kind of training with imams was not possible. So I do think the community is ready.”

Religious leaders and representatives are also demanding an end to the harmful practice and promotion of conversion therapy. Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Germany are currently the only countries to institute a nationwide ban against this. 

In a recent BBC interview, a gay man opened up about being subjected to electric shock ‘therapy’ in a university psychology department 50 years ago. He has demanded an apology from the institution and called on the UK government to ban the practice. 

The man stated, “You cannot cure being LGBT, you cannot erase us from society. Major UK health organisations like the NHS, psychotherapy and counselling bodies have rightly condemned these practices.”

Further speaking on the harmful practice, the man said, “In this country, it is illegal to train a dog using electric shocks, but it is not illegal to use electric shocks on a gay man. I have had over 40 years of pain, and an immensely frustrating life. Why has the government still not banned conversion therapy?”

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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