Pride month was brought to a poignant close by an amazing show of faith in the Philippines this past weekend. In Marikina City, thousands of people gathered to march in the annual Pride Parade, and one attendee documented a moving moment with a group of Christian marchers.
Nineteen-year-old Jamilah Salvador was greeted by the religious group upon entering Marikina Stadium, and they apologized for the ways in which Christians have harmed the LGBTQ community. Many were sporting shirts that read “I’m sorry,” and carried signs that said “God loves you, so do we,” and “Can we hug you?” One man even identified himself as a former homophobe, with a sign reading, “I used to be a bible-banging homophobe, sorry!!”
The group carried banners apologizing on behalf of the church, which read, “We’re here to apologize for the ways that we as Christians have harmed the LGBT community…for hiding behind religion when really I was just scared… I’ve looked at you as a sex act instead of a child of God… I have looked down on you instead of honoring your humanity… I’ve rejected and hurt your family in the name of ‘family values’… for not listening …for judging you.”
The teen from Cainta told BuzzFeed News that she was emotional upon seeing the group’s signs and messages, so she decided to photograph them and post her pictures to Twitter. She wrote: “I literally cried when I saw this kanina. Imagine living in a society with nothing but love and respect for each other. #RiseUpTogether.”
Others took notice of the group and expressed their gratitude for the positive messaging, too.
The best thing I have seen for Pride March 2018 ❤️
— Kohlin not Colleen (@AcetylKohlin) June 30, 2018
— frida kahloka (@merillravago) June 30, 2018
My little gay heart is crying 😭Wishing my Christian fam would think this way one day. Happy pride! 🏳️🌈
— Shekinah Caparas (@iamshekinah) June 30, 2018
As both a Catholic and a bisexual, this is literally all I’ve ever wanted. I could cry.
— ✨Kayley✨ (@littlelunaris) July 1, 2018
These are such brave beautiful people to be willing to change and grow and apologize in a climate of fear and loss. Not just covering up the choices you've made but owning up to them is one of the hardest choices you can make.
— Genny Deeds-Page (@CloverUnburned) June 30, 2018
The religious group is from Makati, from the Church of Freedom in Christ Ministries (FICM), an Evangelical and Pentecostal church. However, their “I’m sorry” campaign isn’t new—this is their fourth annual Pride march. Val Paminiano, the pastor at FICM, said, "We are apologizing for the way Christians have hurt the LGBT community, especially by using the Bible in condemning and judging them.” He added, "I used to believe that God condemns homosexuals, but when I studied the scriptures, especially the ones that we call 'clobber scriptures' that are being cherry-picked from the Bible to condemn LGBT people, I realized that there's a lot to discover, including the truth that God is not against anyone. God does not discriminate against people based on gender."
We need more Paminianos in the world, and for more religious groups to lead by example. Paminiano’s hope for the future is that his fellow Christians will join forces with his church’s message and eliminate homophobia in the church. "We pray that more and more Christians will act, speak, and love the LGBT people like Jesus would.”