By Angelos Anastasiou
WITH the slogan ‘Equal Love – Equal Rights’, the first Pride Festival in Cyprus history, organised by civil rights group Accept-LGBT, kicked off on Saturday.
Accept-LGBT Cyprus announced that the aim of the festival was the promotion of equal rights for everyone, and the increase in visibility of LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) as members of the social group.
The festival was described as a “celebration of diversity,” as well as a “reaction to hatred and oppression, shame and stigmatisation.
A series of events have been planned as part of the festival as of yesterday – the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) – until May 31st with the Pride Parade, which will start at the Eleftheria Square in Nicosia and finish at the Nicosia Municipal Park.
A statement from the government welcomed IDAHO saying: “Every modern society owes its citizens equal treatment, respect and social acceptance. The initiatives taken in this direction contribute to social change, reducing phenomena, such as homophobia, and accepting all forms of diversity in Cypriot society.”
Yesterday’s schedule of events included the Rainbow March, held in the north of Nicosia, along with a gathering later at Selimiye square.
To signal its endorsement of the cause, the US embassy in Nicosia flew the ‘Rainbow’ flag – a global symbol of diversity and inclusiveness. It will also be flown on May 31.
The festival is being held under the auspices of Nicosia Mayor Konstantinos Yiorkadjis and is supported by, inter alia, the European Parliament’s Cyprus office, the European Commission’s representation in Cyprus, the Ombudswoman and the Cyprus Youth Organisation.
Even before its kick-off, the two-week celebration stirred up major controversy when the Cyprus church’s Holy Synod came out with a statement lambasting the effort to legitimise homosexuality, which it deemed an affliction that “should be properly treated.”
“The Church is opposed to all attempts for homosexuality to be socially accepted and protected by law,” the statement said.
Following public outcry, Tamasos Bishop Isaias sought to provide clarification in hopes of appeasing those who charged the Holy Synod with backwardness and condescension.
He claimed the Church had been asked to take a stand by many members of the flock, and said the announcement was “was done with love, concern, and understanding towards all humans.”
Yet Isaias repeated the Synod’s initial claim that the Church’s positions agree with serious scientific studies in relation with homosexuality and that is why the Church and bioethics consider it “a disease and human passion that must undergo medical and spiritual treatment and help.”
But so far, neither the Holy Synod nor Bishop Isaias have provided details of the ‘scientific’ studies that support their claims, thus raising questions regarding their credibility – or even existence.