The Rev. Irene Monroe writes in Bay Windows about the measures Jamaican gay and lesbian Christians must take to be sure that they can worship in safety.
Sometime in the late hours of Saturday night the call will come in. Philbert (not his real name,) like many of his Christian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) buddies, waits anxiously for the call in order to know the time and place of the van pickup, and where it’ll drop them off to a safe and secluded place for Sunday worship. Last week’s worship service was in Montego Bay, just 50 miles from Negril’s Grand Lido, one of the flagship resorts in Jamaica, where Philbert works the night shift at the bar. This week Philbert hopes for a closer worshipping space, perhaps a safe space in Gales Valley, just 40 miles from work.
Every Sunday Philbert and his friends have to worship in a different space. The risk is too high if it’s discovered that they’re queer….
In 2007 a pastor’s church was attacked by an angry mob on Easter Sunday because of the presence of people accused of being homosexuals were at a funeral service he performed earlier in the week.
And in November 2008, Rev. Richard Johnson, one of the leading Anglican priests on the island, was found nude and stabbed 25 times, in the rectory of St. Jude’s Anglican Church in Kingston, because he was thought to be gay.
Homophobia is so intense in Jamaica and so consistently goes unchallenged that people who speculate about who’s LGBTQ can easily plot to kill them, and unabashedly announce their intent with impunity, because the police won’t protect Jamaica’s LGBTQ citizens from mob led murders and violence; they instead incite the country’s homophobic frenzy by either being present and inactive during these assaults, or by following and watching them all the time.
In 2010, nothing has changed. When the van arrives on Sunday morning before the island has risen, Philbert and friends stealthily pack into it and off they go.