Micah Fink went to Jamaica to see first hand how hungry gay Jamaicans were for a safe space to worship and socialize together. Rev. Robert Griffin, a preacher with the Metropolitan Community Church comes monthly from Florida to hold secret church services. (MinnPost)
“We have to operate underground because of the hostility towards the gay and lesbian community here in Jamaica,” said Griffin, explaining that the location of this meeting is a closely held secret and that every service is arranged through word of mouth. “If it was known publicly where this congregation meets, I’m pretty sure there would be some type of violence toward the congregation.”
He also reports some of the first-hand stories that parishioners have shared with him.
And while firm statistics detailing anti-gay assaults, beatings and murders are difficult to find — mostly because the police are as likely to harass a victim of a gay assault as they are to help — it seems that almost every member of Jamaica’s gay community that I encountered had at least one, if not several, personal horror stories to relate.
In just one packed afternoon, I met one woman who was shot several times by a gunman who shouted out “de lesbian fi dead” (the lesbian must die), as he pulled the trigger. One man told me his best friend was murdered, chopped into pieces with a machete, and had the skin flayed from his face; he then went on to relate how another gay friend was locked up in his parent’s house by a group of gunmen who then set the building on fire and burned him alive.
Then there was another congregant whose features appeared in video shot at a gay birthday party that became a black-market best seller after a copy was stolen and then released on the streets. He’s had to abandon his home twice, in two different cities, after neighbors saw the video, recognized him and made plans to kill him. And he’s one of the lucky ones, the man says, since he’s lived to tell the tale — unlike four other gay men he knows who had the misfortune to appeared in the video and were later hunted down and murdered.
And Griffin knows that those who should be standing against evil are instead encouraging it.
“Ministers here are endorsing violent acts, calls for murder, to incite riots,” Griffin said. “I hear it being done here, I read it in the papers here, I have even heard it myself. They tell me: ‘We don’t believe in homosexuality and homosexuals should be killed because that’s what the scripture says.’”
I commend Griffin for seeking to start a new dialogue, one in which religion is not a cover for murder, one which calls for decency and humanity. Truly he is putting his life at risk.