8 May 2006, Jerusalem - WorldPride, a week-long international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) event, will be held in the Holy City August 6-12, 2006. Jerusalem Open House, lead organizer of Jerusalem WorldPride, will collaborate with thousands of activists and organizers from around the globe for a week of discussion, camaraderie and community.
Jerusalem WorldPride will be a massive demonstration of LGBT pride and human rights. Major events include an Multifaith LGBT Clergy Conference, a Pride March and outdoor festival, Human Rights Day, LGBT Health Day, an International LGBT Youth conference, an LGBT Film Festival, and the Keshet Gaava annual conference. Broad cultural programming will occur throughout the week, including theatrical performances, art exhibitions and parties.
“The message sent from Jerusalem WorldPride will echo throughout the world, redefining our community’s identity, faith and vision,” said Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of Jerusalem Open House, (JOH), the Holy City’s LGBT community and advocacy organization. JOH works to serve the Jerusalem community - including Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, Muslims and Christians— to advance social change and promote tolerance and pluralism. “In these times of intolerance and conflict, this is a historical opportunity to proclaim the moral values of our community from the home of three of the world’s great religions. We encourage LGBT leaders, community members and our allies from around the world to attend.”
The spotlight shown even more brightly on Jerusalem last week as the cancellation of Tel Aviv’s annual local Pride celebration was announced. “It is very exciting that Tel Aviv Pride is joining us in Jerusalem this August,” said JOH’s Chairperson, Noa Sattath. “We’re thrilled to have the full support of our brothers and sisters in Tel Aviv.”
A broad coalition of organizations from around the world is working together with JOH to plan WorldPride, including major LGBT and human rights organizations such as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign, welcoming Christian congregations including the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the New Israel Fund (NIF), various LGBT synagogues and many others.
Although Jerusalem WorldPride will encompass many themes, religion will be a focal point. The Multifaith LGBT Clergy Conference, titled “Reclaiming Our Faith and Our Heritage,” will allow people of all faiths to explore ways in which our teachings convey respect for the dignity of all people. “As a Muslim scholar and spiritual activist striving for the eradication of homophobia within Muslim communities, I find it imperative to seize any opportunity that might aid this cause,” said Imam Muhsin Hendricks, President of The Inner Circle, an organization advocating for South Africans who are gay and Muslim. “I find in this invitation [to attend WorldPride] an opportunity to share information on Islam and sexual diversity, hoping that the exchange of knowledge and experience will benefit and continue to benefit those who feel a need to reconcile faith with sexuality and those who work in this field.
“Many of us will be gathering in Jerusalem not only to celebrate gay pride, but also to celebrate our spiritual pride,” said Reverend Dr. Troy D. Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the world´s largest gay church group and co-chair of the WorldPride Multifaith Clergy Conference. “We´re coming as pilgrims to pay homage to the three faiths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that hold Jerusalem sacred. I´m inviting everyone I know to come to WorldPride with me in August.”
As of press time, over 1000 clergy of all faiths have signed a petition in support of Jerusalem WorldPride, speaking out after various conservative religious groups— Christian, Jewish and Muslim— called for a halt to LGBT events in the Holy City. “The religious right does not own the mantle of holiness.” said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Co-Chair of the WorldPride’s North American organizing committee and spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Simhat Torah, the synagogue for the New York metropolitan area’s 200,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews. “Jerusalem, a living, holy city, a pilgrimage site for people of many faiths and many beliefs, increases in holiness when all are welcome within her walls. During WorldPride, we will unite as one community to declare that Jerusalem belongs to all of us.”
JOH has deeply considered the significance of WorldPride’s location: Jerusalem, the city at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “The complex political realities within Jerusalem, and the difficulties of building a community beyond physical and political boundaries are considerable,” said Haneen Maikey, Director of JOH’s groundbreaking Palestinian Community Programming project. “However, WorldPride in Jerusalem is a unique opportunity to advance our rights and our visibility as part of our ongoing struggle for dignity and equality. JOH Palestinian activists have proudly contributed in previous Jerusalem Pride celebrations, and we look forward to an even larger role this year.” Maikey added that WorldPride participants will have numerous opportunities to learn about local advances in gay rights and other human rights struggles in the region, to broaden their perspectives on the Jerusalem separation wall, and to engage in interfaith dialogue.
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WorldPride is responsible for Pride celebrations around the world that attract a combined attendance of between 15 and 20 million, from San Francisco to Montreal to Sydney to Berlin.