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Pastor lashes out at 'injustices' faced by gays

By KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer senior reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 09, 2013    

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Religious leaders have often come out against the lifestyle of homosexuals, also called gays, but one clergyman yesterday defended them, saying he was disappointed that more Christians were not speaking out against the injustices faced by the men, who are often scorned by the society.

"How many Christians have you heard calling out for any kind of help for those young men who have taken refuge in the gully," said Rev Sean Major Campbell, priest at Christ Church, Vineyard Town in St Andrew.

He was speaking about an incident last week in which eight men, who police said were members of the homosexual community, were arrested in connection with a series of robberies in and around the New Kingston area.

"We need to repent as a church as we have too often been agents of negative silence," said the Anglican priest.

The man of the cloth was speaking during Jamaicans for Justice's (JFJ) Church Service to commemorate International Human Rights Day and the life and work of Nelson Mandela.

Rev Campbell said that he was aware that some members of the group (homosexuals) may have turned to crime, but said that was an issue for the police to deal with.

"But do they have any humanity on which we share common ground?" the clergyman asked his congregation made up of regular worshippers, Jamaican human rights officials, and visitors from the South African High Commission.

"Who will be the John the Baptist of Jamaica, or will we leave it to civil society to usher in the kingdom of righteousness, peace and justice?" he asked.

The clergyman said that the issues with homosexuals were just part of larger problems that Christians needed to speak out against. He said that it was important for Jamaicans, the Church included, to recognise the human rights of all people, bar none.

"It is a shame that in a country like Jamaica we are more likely to hear the voice of civil society speaking out for human rights while the Church remains quiet until some issues such as horse racing or Lotto comes to the fore," he said.

Rev Campbell said that Christians would do well to hear the advice of Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, who said that the Christians should not be just pulling out people out of the river, but should be going upstream to find out who is pushing people in.

"Has it reached home to us that we are to be agents of justice - a major criterion for an experience of the Kingdom of God?" the pastor asked.

Dr Carolyn Gomes, outgoing JFJ executive director, said that she was encouraged by the call for the human rights of all to be acknowledged.

She was supported by Susan Goffe, chairperson of JFJ.

Goffe said that over time, in many different situations and circumstances, the church had been one of the foremost voices on behalf of the rights of the oppressed and those who are abused, but said that there were others who needed to come on board.

"I think that Father Sean's exaltation to the church to speak loudly and consistently on the issue of human rights is a very timely welcome call," said Goffe.

Church service - 4513

Rev Campbell (right) greets Counsellor of the South African High Commission to Jamaica, Peter Makwarela, after a religious service to mark International Human Rights Day and the life and work of Nelson Mandela yesterday at Christ Church, Vineyard Town, St Andrew.

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