Italy: Religious Leaders and Activists Converge on Rome

Contact: Michael Mills, IGLHRC Rome Conference Co-Coordinator +1.415-255-8680, michael@iglhrc.org.

ROME--The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), together with the International Lesbian and Gay Association, will sponsor a one-day conference "Sexual Diversity, Religious Intolerance, and Strategies for Change" on July 3, 2000, as part of the week-long World Pride Festival in Rome. "This is truly an historic event," said Michael Mills, a conference co-coordinator. "We are honored to bring together an unprecedented range of strategists and leaders in various gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities of faith and human rights activism from around the world. Our conference has been in the works for several months now, but given the climate of intolerance we are witnessing in Italy, it couldn't be more timely," Mills continued, referring to the ongoing efforts of resurgent Italian neo-fascist parties, working in alliance with the Vatican, to undermine the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association of World Pride attendees.

The purpose of the conference is to bring together activists and experts who work at the crossroads of GLBT and HIV/AIDS activism, communities of faith, and human rights to examine how religious structures respond to sexual diversity and to discuss strategies for change. "Our goal is to carve out a constructive space to explore both how religious institutions may perpetuate and enforce the violations of basic freedoms-- often in alliance with state power-- and how communities of faith can work to defend fundamental human rights," said Daniel Lee, a former Harvard Divinity student and one of the conference's co-coordinators. Beyond strategizing around religious homophobia, the conference has the goal of composing and issuing a Unity statement which will be a tool for building consensus and opening dialogue within and among both secular and religious bodies.

"Given the depth of experiences and insight among this extraordinary, truly interfaith slate of speakers," says Sara Moore, a conference CO-coordinator, "this conference is bound to push conversations around sexuality, religion, and human rights to new heights." Among those addressing the hundreds expected to attend the conference will be Widney Brown of Human Rights Watch; Rev. Carol Johnson of KINSHIP Networks and the Parliament of the World's Religions; Sandhya Luther, a grassroots organizer from India; Mercy Manci, a renowned leader and trainer of faith healers working for the South African Department of Health; Omar Nahas of the YOESUF Foundation in the Netherlands; Nelson Ng of the World Council of Churches from Hong Kong; a member of the Costa Rican lesbian group Grupo El Reguero; Haya Shalom of the Community of Feminist Lesbians in Israel; and a representative of the International Solidarity Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.

The conference will take place at the Hotel Cicerone in Rome.

Information about the conference "The Separation of Faith and Hate: Sexual Diversity, Religious Intolerance, and Strategies for Change" and other work IGLHRC is doing around World Pride Roma 2000 can be found at www.iglhrc.org. To register, send an inquiry to WorldPrideRome@aol.com with the Subject line "_Religion conference registration_", or inquire by fax at +39 6 5413971.

Information about other World Pride events can be found at http://www.worldpride2000.com/english/fcronology.htm. General inquiries about World Pride can be directed to info@mariomieli.it.

IGLHRC's mission is to protect and advance the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.