Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are preparing to attend WorldPride, a series of events affirming the dignity of God's creations. But some Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders are advocating violence against the participants, not just because of who we are but also because of where we will be: Jerusalem.
Throughout that holy city, well-circulated fliers are offering a $4,500 bounty for anyone who "brings about the death of the denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah," as well as giving instructions on how to make weapons.
Like the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who famously blamed Sept. 11 on gays, feminists and abortionists, at least one rabbi has pinned the current Middle East crisis on the lesbian and gay gathering. In a hand-written dispatch to his followers, Moshe Sternbuch, head of an Israeli rabbinic court, asserted, "we have not protested enough against this parade of abomination, and therefore we have received this warning."
Referring to WorldPride as a "terrible phenomenon," Israel's chief rabbi has asked the pope to help "thwart" the planned festivities. Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsour of the Islamic Movement, who holds a seat in the Israeli parliament, described the gathering as "the beginning of a catastrophe for the whole human community." Some Jewish and Muslim leaders have even called their efforts to stop WorldPride a "holy war."
And the crusade isn't limited to groups in Jerusalem. Rabbi Yehuda Levin, founder of the U.S.-based Jews for Morality and a representative of the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Alliance of America, has stated, "I promise there's going to be bloodshed -- not just on that day, but for months afterward." Meanwhile, he is also asking Muslims to "rise up in indignation" against the event.
Focus on the Family, an influential Christian lobby in America, has joined in the foreboding, stating that WorldPride "promises to bring violent clashes."
Though not normally on speaking terms with one another, these purported spiritual leaders are demonstrating uncharacteristic unity in their tacit encouragement of violence against lesbian and gay people.
Opponents of WorldPride justify their fury by claiming that we are descending on Jerusalem to show our contempt for its religious significance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are coming to Jerusalem precisely because we are faithful.
Of course Jerusalem was chosen for its symbolism, as was Rome during World Pride 2000. But the symbolism we are honoring is the message of social justice and human tolerance that beats at the heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. By going to sites that are meaningful to our various religions, lesbians and gay men are making the glorious assertion that we will let no one distance us from God.
Equally important, we will not let threats prevent us from defending universal human rights. Lesbian and gay people are marginalized, imprisoned and killed in countries throughout the world simply because we choose to express love for one another. Now, we are being threatened with physical reprisal for congregating in Jerusalem. WorldPride is our statement that we will not bow down to intimidation.
Graffiti has begun to appear in different parts of the holy city: "God wants us here," it says, accompanied by the international marker of gay and lesbian pride, the rainbow flag. The truth is that none of us, including our critics, can be sure of what God wants. But this we believe: the hope of Jerusalem belongs to all of us.