It was an idea whose time had come. For two decades, Rev. Dr. Stephen Suleeman, lecturer at Jakarta Theological Seminary, held fast to a dream for a LGBT-affirming faith conference in Indonesia.
His dream was realized with the International Consultation on the Church and Homophobia, November 23 - 26 at Jakarta Theological Seminary.
When Stephen invited me to come to Jakarta for this historic, first-ever LGBT faith conference in Indonesia, the only possible answer was “yes.” The journey for Stephen and the seminary was two decades and my journey to Jakarta was 9,809 miles.
Today is the International Human Rights Day and a celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. This recent conference in Jakarta embodied the heart and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights particularly as it relates to LGBT persons and their families.
Inspired by the theme, I John 4: 18 “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear,” the conference offered an introduction to LGBT issues in the context of God’s call to accept and love all persons including those with different sexual orientations and gender identities.
Human dignity, human rights and LGBT equality were central to every conversation, presentation and worship service.
Sixty participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Philippines, Jamaica, Angola, Togo, Sweden, Germany, England and the United States attended the conference. Rev. Dr. Septemmy Lakawa, Director of Graduate Studies, Jakarta Theological Seminary, offered the opening meditation for the conference.
My presentation was “Compassion for Ourselves and Others Along the Journey to LGBT Justice” inspired by the work of Karen Armstrong and the lessons of working for change within the Church as a LGBT human rights advocate.
Surrounded by rainbow banners, the conference offered four days of LGBT-affirming educational workshops, presentations and worship services led by participants, students and seminary faculty. Several dozen seminary students participated in the conference. Rev. Miak Siew and Rev. Pauline Ong, pastors in Singapore, led the final worship service with communion, an open table for all persons.
The conference closed with Rev. Dr. Stephen Suleeman sharing a statement that was endorsed unanimously by the group.
The Jakarta Declaration holds forth a bold vision: “We hope and pray that the embodied God will bless our endeavours to grow into the fullness of life, and to transform our faith communities into communities of dignity. respect, egalitarianism, justice and love.” I believe Eleanor Roosevelt, the architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would be pleased with this vision and prayer. May it be so.
Photo provided by the Global Faith and Justice Project