Tag Archives: Poland

Faith in Solidarity: European Forum 2017 in Gdansk.

Many people of a certain age will recall the central role of Gdansk in the story of Polish resistance to communist rule.  As the  birthplace of the Solidarity movement and the base of its leader, Lech Walesa, it filled our television news screens often enough throughout the 1980’s. As a gay Catholic, I am struck by the powerful symbolism of choosing this city for a  conference of LGBT Christians.

Hammering the message home, is the formal theme for the 2017 conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, is the formal theme for the conference: “Faith in Solidarity”. Further reinforcing it, is the prominent part in the program of the use as a secondary venue for the conference, the European Centre for Solidarity just a few blocks from the hotel which is the main venue. For one evening, we were at the venue for a screening of a documentary film about the life of a transwoman who had been a leading figure in the original solidarity movement, followed by and interview with the woman herself. Later in the week, there will be public workshops and a panel discussion in the centre, followed by  optional formal guided tours of the centre.

“Solidarity” here is used in two quite different contexts. The primary use, is a reference to the English translation of the Polish trade union and democracy movement “Solidarność“. A subsidiary meaning, is that the centre was built by the Europeans, “in solidarity” with Poland and their struggle for democracy – and as a wider symbol of the solidarity of all Europeans in a common cause. It is in that sense that the European Forum choice of Gdansk as the venue for conference 2017, is particularly apposite. The Forum as a whole, and in particular the well-established groups from Western Europe where LGBT inclusion and equality are becoming well-established in law and in social custom, are here to demonstrate our solidarity with our LGBT colleagues in Poland – and others in similarly difficult conditions elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

That sentiment of solidarity will be given concrete expression later today, 27th May 2017, when delegates to  the European Forum conference will join with the secular LGBT rights group “Tolerado” and other LGBT activists, for Gdansk’s annual “Tri-City March of Equality”.

European LGBT Christians Gather in Poland

I am now in Gdansk, in preparation for a five day annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups.

Meeting here in Gdansk is a notable achievement for the Polish LGBT group, “Faith and Rainbow“. While the push for LGBT equality and inclusion has made great strides in many parts of Western Europe and North America, even including lesbian and gay bishops, and same-sex church weddings in some denominations, progress in Eastern Europe, African and the Caribbean has lagged far behind. For Catholics, Poland is widely seen as a bastion of the most conservative  elements of the faith, especially on matters of faith and sexuality.

And yet, founded just a few years ago, Faith and Rainbow has made impressive progress, and can boast of some significant achievements, of which hosting this conference is just one example. In a recent report at the National Catholic Reporter in the importance to the churches of standing up against homophobia and transphobia, Sr Jeannine Gramick described how in a visit to Poland she had seen signs of increasing acceptance and support for LGBT people:

A reconciliation effort initiated by the Campaign against Homophobia called “Let’s Exchange a Sign of Peace,” featured billboards with two clasped hands — one with a rainbow bracelet and the other with a Catholic rosary. This social awareness campaign moved the hearts and minds of many Polish people (but not, unfortunately, the Polish bishops, who denounced the campaign.)

Poster reading “Let’s exchange the sign of peace” from a social awareness campaign in Poland by Campaign Against Homophobia.

I was surprised by the degree of openness and acceptance I found among the Polish people for their lesbian and gay sisters and brothers. Polish Catholics are emerging not only from the political stranglehold of communism, but also from the grip of their authoritarian and traditionalist religious culture. From them I learned that I, too, need to emerge from the iron grip of my own prejudices, my blind spots, and the beams in my own eye. I want to be more open to those who “rub me the wrong way” and to be more welcoming to those with whom I disagree. My visit to the Polish people filled me with hope that homophobia is gradually decreasing in unexpected places.

In the same NCR article, Sr Gramick also wrote about IDAHOT, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – and how in Europe, there are often religious groups participating in IDAHOT events with religious services. (In Malta last year, a Catholic bishop led a Mass for IDAHOT).

She also described specifically an action undertaken by the European Forum of LGBT Christian groups – whose conference I am attending this week here in Gdansk, on behalf of Quest LGBT Catholics, . This is just one of many important and valuable projects of the Forum.

I’ll have more on these projects, and of the proceedings of the conference, as the week goes on.

Polish Archdiocese Retracts Invitation for LGBT Pastoral Discussion

From the Tablet News

Westminster LGBT representative ‘snubbed by Krakow archdiocese’ on visit to encourage pastoral care

11 May 2015 14:23 by Paul Wilkinson

A member of the Catholic lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in London has claimed he was snubbed by Polish church leaders during a visit last month.

Martin Pendergast, from the Westminster diocese, said his invitation to meet Krakow diocese representatives to discuss LGBT pastoral care was suddenly withdrawn, despite Cardinal Vincent Nichols providing a letter of introduction to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow.

Mr Pendergast said that although he knew that neither Cardinal Dziwisz nor his auxiliary, Bishop Grzegorz Rys, would be in Krakow at the time, it was agreed he would meet with diocesan officials. He said: “A range of excuses for cancellation was offered but successively contradicted – Cardinal Nichols’ letter of introduction had not been received, nobody was available for such a meeting, and finally that I and my hosts had failed to arrive.”

via The Tablet – News.