By Constantinos Psillides
AS THE island’s first-ever gay pride parade draws near the Church began its onslaught yesterday, calling homosexuality “an affliction and a moral downfall”.
In a news release, the Holy Synod, headed by Archbishop Chrysostomos, said events like gay pride parades were “saddening and worrying”.
“Men and women, misled by foreign groups or confused by their own conscience are protesting and claiming that homosexuality is normal and that it should be socially accepted and legally protected. To that end they are also planning a so called ‘pride parade,” the statement said.
The Church claims that science also says that homosexuality is an affliction. “Therefore it should be properly treated. The church is opposed to all attempts for homosexuality to be socially accepted and protected by law”.
The Synod said homosexuality has led to a global lax in morality, which in turn has led to “tragic results such as an increase in divorce, paedophilia, people dying of AIDS, families torn apart, the unnatural adoption of children and many more. These are the strongest arguments against this unnatural way of life,” it said.
The Church said it has always stood next to “those who fell” and regard them as a brother and “made in God’s image”.
“Of course we condemn his actions. We love him and we will do anything in our power, if he wants to speed his recovery by realising that he has fallen from grace, and ask the mercy of God”.
The church calls the faithful to adhere to the “timeless and unchanged truths of our faith”, saying that it was the “only way for a person to remain decent”.
Meanwhile Cyprus’ LGBT community yesterday announced a series of events aiming to battle homophobia, titled: Same Love-Same Rights, starting tomorrow and leading up to May 31, the day of the pride parade.
May 17 was chosen as the start date because it is globally observed as the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. On May 17, 1990 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases.
At a news conference yesterday, Accept- LGBT Cyprus head Costas Gavrielides said the community’s vision is for Cyprus to be rid of all forms of discrimination and prejudice, and accept diversity
Gavrielides also called on the political parties to make good on their promises to introduce legislation on gay rights. Gavrielides pointed out that when it came to gay rights legislation Cyprus ranked last in Europe, along with Latvia.
Head of European Commission Representation in Cyprus Giorgos Markopouliotis, also at the news conference, said LGBT people were victims of discrimination on a daily basis which forces them to hide their identity as a survival strategy. “An EU study conducted in 2012 amongst the LGBT community showed that half of them were victims of discrimination or were harassed due to their sexual orientation”.
Markopouliotis said that in Cyprus 39 per cent of gay peoples shy away from publicly expressing their sexual identity, fearing that they will be targeted. Seventy-six per cent claim that they don’t hold hands with their partner in public while 56 per cent said they had been victims of discrimination.
Deputy Head of the European Parliament Office in Cyprus, Alexandra Attalides, said that the European Parliament played a leading role in the fight against discrimination and violations of human rights, and said that research by the Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU in 2013 found that 47 per cent of LGBT persons suffered discrimination or harassment, and 26 per cent suffered attacks or threats in the past five years in the European Union. Attalides welcomed the first pride festival in Cyprus, saying it proved that Cyprus was making strides in leaving behind prejudices.
Cypriot Ombudswoman, Eliza Savvidou, also welcomed the first pride festival. She referred to the two bills that are pending before the House relating to the rights of LGBT people.
The bills concern civil partnerships and the criminalisation of homophobic rhetoric, or hate speech. This, she said, demonstrated that the Cypriot state was moving towards strengthening equality in society.
Mayor of Nicosia, Constantinos Yiorkadjis, under whose patronage the pride parade is being held, said it was society’s responsibility to create an environment where diversity and freedom of expression was accepted.
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) won’t be marked only by Accept-LGBT Cyprus celebrations. The US Embassy in Nicosia issued a statement yesterday saying it would fly the rainbow flag at the embassy building in Engomi tomorrow, and on the date of the gay pride parade on May 31.
“I want to assure you,” Ambassador John Koenig said, that the US Embassy in Nicosia “will remain committed to working with the LGBT community on promoting the protection of LGBT rights and on combating discrimination against LGBT individuals. This is not only part of our foreign assistance, but represents our moral conviction,” he added.
Koening, along with 10 other ambassadors, is scheduled to march in the parade.