As if intending to justify the need for the International Day Against Homophobia, a vicious mob of more than 20,000 homophobes attacked 50 gay rights advocates who were commemorating this event in Tbilisi, Georgia. According to The New York Times, the attack was “led by priests in black robes” who “surged through police cordons” and “swarmed the busses” where the gay activists ran so that they could be evacuated.
“They wanted to kill all of us,” said Irakli Vacharadze, the head of Identoba, the Tbilisi-based gay rights advocacy group that organized the event.
After the initial horror of the attack, I felt a powerful sense of relief. Finally, the world saw the unscrubbed underbelly of religious persecution against LGBT people in broad daylight. In Tbilisi, there were no sophisticated church PR gurus drafting saccharine statements to hide the hideousness of depraved minds and wicked hearts. There were no insincere attempts to spin the spite by laughably claiming to “love the sinner” but “hate the sin.” What the world saw was a rare glimpse of would-be killers for Christ unplugged in their full glory.
We should be grateful for this peek at unfiltered prejudice, because most indoctrination and incitement takes place in the shadows. What people often fail to comprehend is that a colossal industry exists to demonize gay people, including numerous attempts to create conditions where homosexuals are imprisoned, assaulted and even murdered.
It is not just at the fringes of Christianity where calls for violence occur but in organizations that are considered mainstream. In January, for example, Campus Crusade for Christ (which recently rebranded itself with the hipper-sounding name Cru) sponsored an evangelism conference in Lagos, Nigeria. At the event, Dr. Seyoum Antonios, the head of United for Life Ethiopia, incited the crowd to frenzy, shouting multiple times that “Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!”
Antonios can’t simply be dismissed as a renegade speaker, because two high-ranking vice presidents in the Campus Crusade international organization, Bekele Shanko and Dela Adedevoh, organized the conference. They invited Antonios to speak even though it was widely known that he led a movement to legislate the death penalty for LGBT people in Ethiopia.