Thursday, July 26, 2012

Faith and pride ... debates, services and screenings in and around Belfast Pride Festival

Belfast Pride Festival starts this weekend, leading up to the the parade through Belfast city centre on Saturday 4 August. While Christian groups may sometimes be best known for protesting at the parade, there are many faith-based events in the Belfast Pride programme (augmented by the Faith and Pride group and others).

Sunday 29 July at 4pm // All Souls' Church, Elmwood Avenue // Discussion about the right to gay marriage.

Sunday 29 July to Saturday 4 August at 6pm // St Georges Church, High Street // Daily fifteen minute services of prayer and reflection with speakers from a range of traditions.

Sunday 29 July at 7pm // St Georges Church, High Street // The service of reflection at 6pm will be followed by a screening of Love Free or Die following Bishop Gene Robinson as he travelled from Washington to Lambeth calling for people to stand for equality.

Monday 30 July at 7.30pm // Europa Hotel // Amnesty Pride Lecture 2012: The Dangerous World of Gay ‘Cures’.
In 2010 journalist Patrick Strudwick published “The Ex-Gay Files: The Bizarre World of Gay-to-Straight Conversion” in The Independent, chronicling a year of undercover investigation of therapists claiming to be able to ‘convert’ gays and lesbians to heterosexuality. In some countries, ‘gay conversion therapy’ is used as a form of punishment amounting to torture against gay people.

Strudwick’s exposé shone a spotlight on the activities of therapists such as Dr Paul Miller, a psychiatrist and adviser to a former Northern Ireland MP. Following Strudwick’s investigation, the British Medical Association passed a motion condemning attempts to change a patient’s sexual orientation, while Dr Miller was sanctioned by the General Medical Council, who imposed conditions upon his practice.

Strudwick will speak about his investigation into ‘gay conversion therapy’ and how that is used here and across the world as an attempt to negate gay identity and human rights for gay people. Hosted by William Crawley.

Tuesday 31 July at 6pm // Europa Hotel // Pride Talks Back 2012. Not strictly faith based, but politics in Northern Ireland is never far away from religion! Panellists from all five main parties will be answering questions from the audience. For the first year, the DUP have volunteered an elected representative for the panel: Belfast’s Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson will join other well known politicians. Chaired by William Crawley.

Wednesday 1 August at 7pm // Europa Hotel // Hymn or Us will take a theme of Faith in Education and debate issues with leading religious leaders and educational experts. Chaired by the ubiquitous William Crawley.

Saturday 4 August at noon // Belfast Pride Parade // The largest cross community carnival parade in Belfast (10,000+) is taking a nautical theme this year. It leaves Custom House Square at noon and snakes its way past the City Hall and down Castle Place before returning to the square. Music kicks off at 1.30pm while there’s family entertainment (a lot less rowdy) across the road beside the Big Fish.

Rather than walking in the parade, several Christian groups are planning an anti-protest! They'll be "standing on High Street, behind a Faith and Pride banner, holding pro-gay signs and cheering the parade on". The organisers hope that "participants in the parade will then see our message of accepting, inclusive Christianity where love is love, regardless of gender". See Faith and Pride website for details.

Sunday 5 August at 3pm // All Souls’ Church, Elmwood Avenue // Annual Pride Service
Everyone is warmly invited to attend, and will be made welcome, regardless of their orientation, gender or faith.

Sunday 5 August at 5pm // Europa Hotel // Queer Generations: Personal Perspectives on the past, present and future.
Liam Clarke, Belfast Telegraph Political Editor, hosts a debate and discussion between older and younger members of the LGBT community, charting highs and lows, ups and downs of Gay Liberation in Northern Ireland.

Phil O'Kane has also posted a guide to Pride events on his Iced Coffee blog.

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