“This is essential work. It’s meaningful and very important. This is big”.
That’s how one stakeholder is describing the latest project the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) is implementing with two of its partners.
CVC is partnering with Rainbow Faith and Freedom and the Global Interfaith Network (GIN) to implement a two year project aimed at creating a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals of faith. . The project is seeking to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people of faith in Jamaica, by shifting social norms or community acceptance on LGBTQ+ issues while reducing discrimination and violence. The initiative, dubbed the Jamaica-Fiji Faith and Gender Project will work with families and faith communities in Jamaica and Fiji to help them become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people of faith.
CVC gathered faith leaders and LGBTQ+ stakeholders in Kingston yesterday (Wednesday September 13) for a faith dialogue, and project inception meeting, to discuss the current situation regarding spirituality and sexuality in Jamaica and how the objectives of the project can be achieved. Participants also explored possible partnerships and collaborations to support the successful implementation of the project.
CVC’s Executive Director Ivan Cruickshank, who convened the session, pointed out that there is a need to bridge the gap between religious groups and LGBTQ+ communities in Jamaica while promoting greater acceptance. “I’m excited about this project and the difference it will make in the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Jamaica. The project will see members of faith communities working with LGBTQ+ communities on a number of initiatives. As part of the first phase, CVC has engaged the religious leaders at various levels to start the conversation about how we can best facilitate discussions between the two communities about religion and sexual and gender identity. The project will build upon the work already done in both Jamaica and Fiji, and upon the programs developed by the Global Interfaith Network as well as the “Sexual Health Sensitization Training with Faith Based Organizations” programs already done by CVC. We’re aiming to strengthen the capacity of the LGBTQ+ community and support faith leaders to respond to the spiritual and social needs of LGBTQ+ persons and create supportive environments for them to realize their rights, while empowering them with skills, tools and information to advocate on their own behalf with religious groups and decision-makers,” said Mr. Cruickshank
Meanwhile Executive Director at Equality for All Foundation Glenroy Murray, who participated in Wednesday’s meeting, welcomed the discussions. “It’s a very important step for us as a community and as a movement to be a part of a faith based dialogue to see how we can bridge the divide between people of faith and members of our community. The reality is that there are a lot of LGBTQ+ people in Jamaica, and I’m gonna assume the wider Caribbean, who are of faith themselves and so the more we can have constructive dialogue is the better we are. So I think it is a step in the right direction,” Murray said.
Tackling issues at the intersectionality of sexuality and spirituality is familiar territory for Angeline C. Jackson. Jackson, a queer woman who is mere weeks away from becoming an ordained minister of religion, shared crucial insights during Wednesday’s session, pointing out that tackling issues surrounding sexuality and spirituality are very important. “I’ve been an LGBT activist since around 2012 and one of the things I came to realize was that we were missing the conversations on engaging people of faith, for all the different reasons – the hurts and the trauma and the pain that we’ve gone through as queer people but that also meant that we did not recognize the good work that was happening for queer people of faith, the work that they were doing, the way they were affirming their faith and spirituality. So I think that this work we are undertaking has the potential to make a big impact in our country and across the Caribbean. I think what we are doing here will help to change hearts and minds and that is the most important thing that we can do in our activism,” said Jackson.
Jackson is also encouraging LGBTQ+ individuals of faith to seize the opportunities from the Jamaica-Fiji Faith and Gender Project to help them affirm both their sexuality and spirituality. “For LGBT people who cannot reconcile their sexuality and their spirituality, I really want to encourage you to find the resources that will help you to do that affirmation, because it is possible to integrate both of those pieces. You don’t have to be queer or a person of faith, you can be both. It is possible. I am a person of faith and there are many queer people who are people of faith,” She said.
The Global Interfaith Network (GIN) will be providing technical support throughout the life of the project. GIN’s Senior Collaboration Manager Pierre Buckley is looking forward to the collaboration. “The session was really productive. It confirmed a lot of the thoughts that we had around cementing and concreting the work that we’d like to do in the region. It has also given us deeper insights for us as a collaborative organization to find out what are the key concerns or issues within the region and how best we can synchronise our work and our commitment to forming social and economic and justice changes,” Buckley said.