'We were verbally abused': How a Kerala Church's LGBTQ-themed star sparked row
A church in Kerala's Ernakulam district is in the eye of a storm for spreading the message of 'one love' through an LGBTQIA+-themed decorative star that it had put up this Christmas.
What happened? A youth group at St Mary's Forane Church in Tripunithura hung the star around three weeks ago with the intention of spreading the message of "humanism, inclusivity, and fraternity." Days later, the church and its members were allegedly subjected to cyberbullying by "religious fundamentalists," James Panavelil, the assistant vicar of the parish, told media.
What did the church say? James Panavelil added that "religious fanatic groups like CASA (Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action) and Marthoma Margam, who have very aggressive beliefs, started circulating photos of the star and launched a hate campaign against us. We were all portrayed in a bad light on WhatsApp groups for spreading a progressive message."
And then? He claimed that the members of the church have been receiving threatening phone calls "every five minutes, asking us to take it down. It seems like a planned move." Further, a post on the star on the Instagram page of Christian Life Community, Tripunithura, received several comments of hate, he said.
Why is this important? Panavelil said that the star reflected Pope Francis' stance on the LGBTQIA+ community. "Pope Francis has spoken in support of the community at least seven to eight times in the past. He had said, 'If they're the children of God, then who am I to judge them?'. The youth of this church were following that message – of kindness and humanity," he told media.
But he alleged that those who were involved in the hate campaign even resorted to calling Pope Francis "anti-Christ." "People who are supposedly trying to defend their faith are using such obscene language. How can they be believers?" the assistant vicar asked.