• LGBT organisation Stonewall hosts first multi-faith seminar with religious leaders
  • Muslim, Christian and Jewish role models share experiences of being LGBT
  • Faith leaders work together to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in their communities

    Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, held a seminar last night (25 February) with religious leaders to start conversations on LGBT equality across all faiths.

Over 200 delegates attended the event in London to hear  faith leaders sharing best practice in a range of areas, including tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying within their congregations.

The session was also used to discuss the possible introduction of a interfaith network of LGBT people within the UK.

Panellists included Dr and Imam Ludovic Mohammed-Zahed, the founder of mosques that are inclusive of LGBT Muslims and women based in Paris.

Ludovic-Mohamed was joined by Reverend Sally Hitchiner, an English Anglican priest and founder of Diverse Church; Ruby Almedia, chair of Catholic LGBT group Quest; and Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu, the rabbi of Kehillah North London and Director of Youth, Education and Development and Finchley Reform Synagogue.

Ludovic Mohammed-Zahed said:
“Fighting discrimination against both LGBT people and faith communities is so important. Multi-faith dialogue gives individuals and groups a chance to share best practice and learn about tackling prejudice in different communities. It’s been great to visit London and hear more from faith leaders based here in Britain, and I hope that sharing my experiences as a gay Imam has been informative and useful to them too.”

Keynote speakers on the night included Dr Masuma Rahim, a clinical psychologist who specialises in supporting young people who come out as LGBT and Surat-Shaan Rathgeber Knan, the founder and manager of both Twilight People, a project celebrating transgender and gender-variant people of faith, and Rainbow Jews, a group that celebrates LGBT Jewish history.

Masuma and Surat-Shaan were joined by Kieran Bohan, LGBT Ministry Facilitator at inclusive Anglican church St Bride’s Liverpool and Katy Staples, who works for Bristol Diocese and is one of the authors of ‘Valuing All God’s Children’.

Surat-Shaan Rathgeber Knan said:
“Multi-faith work and discussions are crucial to ensure that faith leaders can tackle transphobia, and indeed all forms of discrimination, within their congregations and communities. It’s essential that faith role models are a part of this, and that their voices are amplified to address these stories. A core Jewish value is that we’re all created in the Divine image, B’tzelem Elohim, which asks for all elements of who we are to be welcomes and respected within faith. As this vital work continues I hope we see more and more people, regardless of their faith, address others with these similar values”

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall said:
“An essential part of Stonewall’s work involves amplifying the voices of individuals and LGBT faith groups to counter narratives around mutual exclusion and incompatibility. Your sexual orientation, gender identity and faith should not present barriers to one another.

We now have a responsibility to look at how, alongside other LGBT charities, we can best support the process of LGBT inclusion in religious and faith communities. LGBT and faith are not mutually exclusive – and we must continue working hard to dispel that myth. 

Empowering individuals to work together and exchange best practice, regardless of faith, can be extremely impactful. And we must acknowledge the theological diversity that exists within faith and facilitate platforms for LGBT people to talk about these issues.

Then, we can continue working towards a world where all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or faith, are accepted without exception.”

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