In July 2018 and 2019 the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community and its supporters marched up and down the streets of Bridgetown unhindered and uninterrupted. Their march was treated like any other, with news coverage from all the media houses for all to see.
Indeed, there was opposition to the marches, but they were held nonetheless. There were no counter protests, “silent” or otherwise. They were allowed to enjoy their Pride Day in the most festive and respectable way, and rightfully so. This year, we have not seen any such event and it’s fair to assume this could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, as revealed in the Throne Speech delivered by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, Government declared its intention to recognise “civil unions”. Christians have spoken out publicly against it. Columns have been written, some have voiced their opinions on call-in programmes, while others have preached about it from their pulpits.
Last weekend, the group Family-Faith-Freedom Barbados decided to take to the streets, in much the same way that LGBT supporters did in 2018 and 2019, marching in peace.
But in a surprising move, as the religious group assembled at the Glebe, St George, so too did members or supporters of the LGBT community.
Admittedly, it is common for counter protests to happen the world over. But they don’t in Bim. We speak up, we oppose, but we do not seek to take away or distract from another person’s or group’s cause.
Every year, on the first Monday in August, thousands of Bajans and visitors alike masquerade from either Warrens or the National Stadium to what is now the Mighty Grynner Highway.
Generally, Christians believe the day that culminates the national festival, Crop Over, is filled with lewd, rude and crude behaviour. But we don’t see Christians lining the streets on Kadooment Day with placards condemning revellers to hell. Actually, those more liberal-minded Christians join in the Walk Holy Band which leads the parade.
The vast majority of churches either hold picnics or other social activities for their congregants on that day.
When workers strike against the government of the day, the streets are not lined with people “silently” protesting their actions. This is not who we are. In Barbados we have a saying, “live and let live”.
So much so, that Ras Bongo Lights, an elder, advocate and spokesman in the Rastafari faith, was seen walking with the Christians in support of opposing the proposed same-sex civil unions. A man of a different faith walked because of his own beliefs and convictions.
Christians or anyone opposing same-sex unions should not be subjected to any form of ridicule because they choose to demonstrate against what they believe to be wrong. This is their belief and doctrine, whether right or wrong; whether others accept or reject it.
Likewise, when others incite violence against members of the LGBT community, they too are wrong. Entertainers who encouraged the killing of people in same-sex unions are wrong. People in communities who hurl insults and vicious attacks on them are wrong. Christians who ostracise or discriminate against those in same-sex unions are wrong.
Therefore fhe LGBT community cannot now engage in behaviour they have condemned.
They argue fiercely for human rights, equality, freedom to practise their lifestyle – again, rightfully so – but the same privilege must be extended to people of other beliefs as well.
During Saturday’s incident, Director of Sexual Health Empowerment (SHE) Ro-Ann Mohammed, one of the LGBT supporters, in her counter-protest suggested issues she believed Christians should protest against and speak out about.
“. . . I don’t understand why this is something that needs to be protested when there are so many other pressing issues in society, like incest, rape, sexual abuse, violence, and I don’t see marches for those things. So, we are just here to hold them accountable,” she said.
At the same time, Executive Director of Family-Faith-Freedom Barbados, Dr Veronica Evelyn, welcomed the counter protesters.
“They have every right to be here. They feel strongly about it. From my Christian perspective, from my Biblical view, they are blinded, the devil has put wool over their eyes . . . . They have every right to be here, and the truth is I am very glad that they are here, because they heard our message,” she said.
It’s time for both groups to have a serious conversation with each other and not talk at each other.
In a mature society like Barbados, varying views and beliefs must be allowed, and we must agree to respectfully disagree and coexist peacefully for the good of all.