2023 HONOURABLE MENTION
THE GLOBAL INTERFAITH NETWORK FOR PEOPLE OF ALL SEXES, SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS, GENDER IDENTITIES AND EXPRESSIONS – GIN-SSOGIE | Global
Somewhere in Southern Africa, LGBTIQ+ people of faith form two concentric circles, with participants facing each other. A facilitator asks, “What messages did you receive from others about being a boy or girl when you were growing up?” Once participants have shared their experiences, the inner circle shifts so participants are facing someone new. The facilitator asks: “What early messages did you receive about your spirituality and your sexual orientation?” The circle shifts again. “What messages did you receive about being a ‘good Christian’?” These participants are on a five-day retreat organized by the Global Interfaith Network for People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN-SSOGIE). Part of the retreat is spent discussing strategies for transforming views about gender and sexuality in their faith communities. GIN-SSOGIE will support participants to eventually engage in dialogue with religious leaders with confidence and compassion. GIN-SSOGIE is helping to ensure that the views, values and rights of people of all sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions are respected.
LGBTIQ+ people face tremendous discrimination, violence, persecution, marginalization and criminalization. In many countries, homosexuality (or being transgender) is illegal—sometimes punishable by death—and grave human rights abuses are perpetrated in the name of religion and tradition. In some contexts, religious authorities are fueling hostility by speaking out against LGBTIQ+ people and interpreting religious doctrines to exclude and promote violence against homosexuality and gender nonconformity. Among the harmful narratives is that there is an inherent conflict between being a religious person and LGBTIQ+.
Based in South Africa, GIN-SSOGIE is a network of 480 individuals and organizations from 92 countries addressing the violence and persecution facing sexual and gender minorities. GIN-SSOGIE’s advocacy programs amplify the voices of LGBTIQ+ people of multiple faiths from the Global South and East in high-level political spaces that have been dominated by Western perspectives. In addition to preparing LGBTIQ+ people of faith to engage religious leaders in dialogue, GIN-SSOGIE’s programs guide religious leaders as they explore new understandings of religious stories and build more inclusive faith communities. The organization also develops media, policy and theological resources to counter discriminatory religious narratives and promote allyship.
Thanks to GIN-SSOGIE, more LGBTIQ+ people are confidently claiming their faith and using it to strengthen their advocacy. GIN-SSOGIE has shown that religion can be a powerful lever for inclusion – a place to celebrate all human beings and to ensure that everyone feels safe, respected and free to develop a spiritual self.