Recently, I learned that eight out of ten people around the world identify with a religion. While Christianity leads major religious groups with 32% of the world’s population (2.2 billion people), other religions are not far behind, including 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, 500 million Buddhists, 14 million Jews, and over 400 million people that practice a folk or traditional religion.
I was curious about these numbers because as I read news headlines (again and again and again) I am continually reminded of how divisive faith communities tend to be. Strife and division is embedded in the human inclination to have power and to “to be right.” For many, religious coexistence is a pipe dream and impossible to navigate when religions yield great powers in many of the counties that exist.
Of course, like it is written in Ecclesiastes, a book from the bible,
What has been will be again,
What has been done will be again;
There is nothing new under the sun.
There is nothing new under the sun. Religious indifference and contention has been with us since the 16th century– when “religion” became associated with group doctrine and not just individual, practicing belief.
However, many of the world’s religions and faith systems do hold on to tenets of peace and unity. In this, there remain many peaceful practitioners of these faiths around the world. Now, more than ever, it is the peaceful, unified intentions of faith that we so badly need. Moreover, interfaith dialogue is a pressing inevitability, particularly within the LGBTQIA+ community, as faith traditions have a unique opportunity to offer safe spaces for a group of people that have traditionally been rejected from these very communities.
You Are Welcome Here (YAWH) is forging the path for how inclusion (within faith communities) can be done. When the conference takes place next year in October, we will not only model what it looks like to bring together many faiths, but what it looks like for these faith traditions to extend openness, inclusion, and affirmation to the LGTBQIA+ community. This is historical and not to be overlooked; it is in this generation that LGBTQIA+ rights are coming to fruition and that recognition, legally, spiritually, and everything in between is taking place. After all, it was only just two years ago, in 2015, when same sex marriage was finally passed on the federal level.
Because of this, YAWH is in a unique position to carry gains that have been won in the past decade, and extend this into religious community. This presents a new opportunity for the “Church” – that is, to stand as a leader for interfaith, inclusive, and affirming stances, largely rooted in love. Too often, the church and other faith communities are sidelined in political debates that become about “issues” and not about the people themselves. Faith, at its core, is about love. It is time that faith communities – from wherever they come – lead the way for LGTBQIA+ involvement, inclusion, and importantly, celebration.
I look forward to advancing this movement and believe that YAWH will be a big part of moving the needle of faith and sexuality a little further, showing people that love wins, and it always will.
You – we – all of us – we are welcome here.
Let’s get to work.