All in the same boat

All in the same boat

This past year has been a tumultuous one in many ways, and I suspect like me you will have heard the expression that we are “All in the same boat…” or that we are all in the same boat but in different storms, or that we are in different boats or the same storm or that some have boats, and some do not. The truth is that although there is some common elements and causes, we have all had different and varied experiences – that is what life is like – so I have sat lightly to these supposedly motivating or comforting statements which politicians have used.

But as the vaccine programme has rolled out, as different variants of the Coronavirus start to spread and as the disparity between different countries ability to buy and administer vaccines becomes even more apparent there is one phrase which resonates powerfully with me “No one is safe until we are all safe”. 

As with all significant infectious diseases, until Covid19 is brought under control by modern medicine and in this case by vaccinations, better understanding of our overall health and wellbeing, and access to good hygiene practices, none of us are truly safe. I think one of the reasons this resonated with me so powerfully was because of other news stories I encountered this year which troubled me:

  1. The young gay Latvian man who was killed by being set on fire by his homophobic neighbour. Normunds Kindzulis, a 29-year-old medical assistant, suffered burns on 85 per cent of his body on 23 April in the sleepy, historic town of Tukums in Latvia.
  2. Or the Iranian man beheaded by his brother for being gay. Alireza Fazeli Monfared was killed on 4 May after his brother arrived at his home and said their father needed to see him. He was subsequently taken by car to the nearby village of Borumi where family members killed him before dumping his body by a tree.
  3. Just this last week Lawmakers in Hungary have passed a bill that bans any discussion of LGBT+ people in schools and in the media, in an almost unanimous vote. The country’s National Assembly passed the legislation, an amendment to an anti-paedophilia law, in a 157-1 vote. It is legislation which makes our own section 28 look insignificant.
  4. Andrea González, a 28-year-old Trans woman, was killed in what some activists have called an “assassination” in Guatemala City on 11 June. She was killed only metres from her home between 11th Avenue and Second Street in zone two of the capital city.

No one is safe until we are all safe.

You and I could go on listing many other such atrocities and of course we know in our own lives and the lives of our fellow LGBT+ community stories of tragedy and of being unsafe. 

Our work as OneBodyOneFaith means nothing if it doesn’t include everyone who is at risk and unsafe because of their sexuality or gender identification. That includes those inside the church and outside of it, it includes those who have a faith and those who do not profess one, it includes those in the UK and those around the world. It includes those who are like us and those who are very different to us.

No one is safe until we are all safe. 

Our own country has made progress in terms of LGBT+ rights and indeed some of our churches have also done so or are doing so. But you and I know that these are fragile and can easily be lost. If we ignore those currently being persecuted, then it may well be us next as rights are rolled back as they are being in Poland and Hungary for example. We know that we can’t assume it won’t happen here. And it isn’t just about self-preservation Jesus tells us that his commandment to us is that we love one another as he has loved us. 

Last year I spoke about taking a positive approach, about telling a better story. We need to continue to do that together and I am grateful to all those who have made it possible for us to do that. To our board of trustees who work alongside many other demands, to our Operations Manager Katie and to Sarah who worked with us whilst Katie was on maternity leave and particularly to Luke whose gift of bringing people together to work positively and collaboratively has seen such great partnerships develop and grow this past year – no easy task but a vital one.

We need to tell a better story but we also need to tell a bigger, better story – one which includes people far and wide so that we might bring in the Kingdom of God where all are welcome and included, where all are affirmed for who they are and where all are safe.

Peter Leonard, Chair of Trustees