Open letter of the EBU on violence towards sexual minorities
This ‘Open Letter’ is the response from the EBU Council (meeting in Frankfurt on the 25th of March 2012) to the call from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on the 7th of March 2012. Some representatives (from countries with a conservative Abrahamic background) walked out of the room and refused to listen to his speech.
“Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBTs) are still demonized, criminalized, attacked, and even killed for who they are.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon testified to the UN Human Rights Council he “learned to speak out because lives are at stake and because it is our duty under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to protect the rights of everyone everywhere.” (7 March 2012) The Secretary General made a strong appeal to all countries and all people of conscience to “tackle the violence, decriminalize same sex relationships, end discrimination and educate the public.” Meanwhile in Brussels, the heart of the European Union, a worrying increase of gay bashing has been reported over the last months. In an open letter (2 March 2012) dozens of Belgian public figures condemned violence against LGBTs and made an appeal to “imams and other spiritual leaders” to speak out clearly “gay people are not inferior and violence towards gays is unacceptable. They also have to help to get that message spread.”
The European Buddhist Union received these calls for help and wants to take up its responsibility to help people in need. We state explicitly that all Buddhist traditions firmly reject all forms of violence, whether in the form of physical attacks, verbal insults, written & oral hate-terminology or institutionalized forms of discrimination, including those against LGBTs.
Someone is not inferior because he or she is born lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. All people – religious or not – should be able to organise their life in a non-harmful way and the secular society should strive for full equality and non-discrimination amongst all its citizens, including sexual minorities. No one should be forced to live according to the rules of a group he or she does not belong to and no group should impose the internal rules for its members on society as a whole.
We urge all people to make a clear distinction between ideas and behaviour they might not agree with and a licence for violence towards the people who embody these.
Although violence against minorities is often religiously inspired, we are convinced most religious people renounce violence. Leaders of all main religions and philosophies need to keep reminding themselves and their followers we are all humans and in being so, we’re all searching for happiness and we’ve all experienced and try to avoid the pain of suffering. This is the same for us all, regardless of our ideas, regardless of our behaviour, regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, language or religion. Recognising this deep existential need we have in common will make us approach our differences in a context of mutual respect and tolerance.
Within the Buddhist communities, some Buddhists consider same sex to be a breach of the Buddhist precept to avoid sexual misconduct, others don’t. The Buddha himself was neutral and pragmatic in his approach towards sexual orientation and sexual gender identity. Nowhere in the canonical scripts does he condemn homosexuality or is he even negative about it. All the Buddha taught is not to use sex harmfully. HH the Dalai Lama specifies: “Homosexual conduct is not a fault as long as both partners agree to it, neither is under vows of celibacy, and the activity does not harm others.”
Violence towards sexual, racial or other minorities is unacceptable. But it is also essential to avoid and condemn a vocabulary that de-humanises people with different identities, beliefs and/or socio-cultural behaviour as this is a first step towards violence and discrimination. Spiritual leaders in particular need to develop, use and promote a vocabulary of mutual respect, friendliness and compassion.
We ask the leaders of the other religions and philosophies to engage with us in the above calls to stand up and speak out loudly and clearly against violence and discrimination towards sexual minorities and aim for the full recognition of human rights for all.
EBU Council, Frankfurt, 25 March 2012
Open Letter in PDF: EBU response on violence towards sexual minorities