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Protestants support gay rights

New Delhi, Aug. 4: A forum of Protestant and Orthodox churches in India has said homosexuality is “a natural or genetical reality”, adopting a radically different stand from other influential Christian denominations across the world.

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), which represents around 1.3 crore Christians in the country, also said the rest of the Christian world needed to “rethink’’ its stated position that homosexuality is a sin against God.

The statement came in the middle of a debate in the country on rights of homosexuals, triggered by a Delhi High Court order that legalised consensual adult sex among gays. An appeal against the verdict is now pending in the Supreme Court where the government has dropped hints that it no longer opposes legalising gay sex.

The Church across the world had taken a strong position against homosexuality. The Catholic Church was among the first to protest the high court verdict, although its opposition was more targeted at formalising homosexual relationships through marriage rather than persecuting them.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India member, Fr. Paul Thalekkat, iterated the stated position that homosexuality was a sin. “The Catholic Church in India goes by Rome, and the Pope has made the position already clear,” he said, refusing to comment on the Protestant Church’s stand. The Catholic Church in India accounts for around 1.55 crore Christians.

The NCCI said it wanted the Church to take a more “open’’ view. “Homosexuality traits in a person could be genetical, hence natural. It is unscientific to throw stones at some people because of their natural instincts over which they have no control,’’ said Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, the secretary of the Justice, Peace and Creation Commission of the NCCI.

The NCCI, which runs organisations such as YMCAs and YWCAs, has 31 member churches, including the Church of North India, the Church of South India, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

According to Rev. Rajkumar, it is the duty of the church to inform the common people that homosexuality is a natural process. “Blind opposition to homosexuality amounts to human rights violation,” he said, adding that a rethink is needed in Christian theology to embrace the homosexuals into its fold.

The NCCI has also issued a document urging its member churches to “accompany the People with Different Sexual Orientation (PDSO) in their journey” and to protect the human rights and dignity of such people. The forum proposed “re-reading and re-interpreting scriptures from the PDSO perspective”.

The priest said many people reacted without bothering to read the high court judgment. “Moreover, Christianity is supposed to embrace all and every one. It is wrong on the part of the Church to discriminate against any one just because he or she has a different sexual orientation,’’ he said.

The NCCI has already held two “deliberation workshops” on homosexuality after the high court verdict, which was attended by social activists and members from gay and transgender groups. “We are planning to hold similar sessions on homosexuality in every state involving pastors, gays, social workers and the laity so that there should be more clarity on the issue,’’ Rev. Rajkumar said.

However, the NCCI is yet to reach the final conclusion on gay marriages. “Deliberations are on but it will take a long time before some conclusions are arrived at,” he said.

Dhananjay, a gay activist who had taken part in the NCCI sessions in Delhi, expressed happiness that some denominations were taking up the cause of homosexuals. “We are grateful that the Protestant Church has come forward to discuss the issue with an open mind,’’ he said.

Antony Mathew, a homosexual who had participated in the Chennai session, said he never expected the Church to recognise people like him. “I was quite surprised by the move as the Church has been one of the ardent critics of homosexuality,’’ he said.

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