I didn’t mean to burst into tears tonight in the dining room of the Methodist guesthouse in Port-au-Prince. It was just too hard, for a moment, to explain why I was listening to the late Rocío Durcal singing Juan Gabriel’s Amor Eterno at full volume.
The song—a drag queen favourite (see below)—was neatly set to slide photos of the funeral of 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio. Daniel died this week, 25 days after being beaten by neo-Nazi thugs in a park in Santiago, Chile.
The crime is a hate crime. Daniel was gay. But instead of allowing Daniel to pass into anonymity, Chileans responded in the thousands and have pressed hard for passage of an anti-discrimination bill.
An article follows below about responses by Chilean Catholic and Lutheran church leaders. I am grateful for their comments and that the ALC news service (a Mission and Service Fund partner of The United Church of Canada) saw fit to cover the story. A few years ago, church leaders would not have spoken—or would have spoken in an ill-informed and judgemental way—and a Christian news service would have ignored the story.
Times change. I am proud to work for a church that has led the way to greater inclusion over the past 30 years. Just last weekend, the United Church’s general council executive acknowledged the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, and unanimously affirmed that gender identity is not a barrier to membership and ministry in The United Church of Canada. (The statement follows the 1988 statement on sexual orientation, membership and ministry.) They also asked the church to update its existing policy statements referring to sexual orientation and to include gender identities.
At the same time, I am sad that yet another young man has died. (Why do we still have to defend ourselves against Nazis?) I regret that I have not done more to challenge homophobia in the churches. And I deplore those who obstinately promote homophobia in the name of religious freedom. (Could Christians be persuaded at least to stop promoting hatred?)
And I find great hope in all the Youtube and other media coverage that I watched obsessively tonight of Daniel’s story, his friends, his family and the tens of thousands of Chileans who have joined vigils and marches so that justice may be done in Daniel’s name.
Churches condemn fatal beating of young gay man in Chile
After having been brutally beaten in a park in Santiago by four Neo Nazis on March 4, 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio died on Tuesday, March 27. Using a broken bottle, his attackers had tattooed two swastikas on his body.
According to initial accounts given by witnesses, Zamudio suffered a beating of three hours. He had been in an induced coma but was finally declared brain dead. The president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), Rolando Jiménez, presented criminal charges against the four aggressors—Raúl López, Alejandro Ângulo, Patricio Defumada and Fabián Mora—all adults who have been arrested pending investigations.
The Catholic Archbishop of Santiago, Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, has called for “a more human coexistence and without violence,” and said that the future of the human community cannot be built on the base of intolerance, aggression and violence.
“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and still continue to be the object of malevolent expressions and violent actions. Such behavior deserves to be condemned by the pastors of the church, wherever they occur,” said Ezzati in a press statement.
For its part, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chile (IELCH), said: “We should not deceive ourselves by placing the blame on two or three torturers, because the sadism of our culture, that has made vexation a daily practice of life in society, is more subtler and dangerous. Those who are and live in a different way are hit even with the Bible.”
From opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Juan Gabriel and Rocío Durcal are icons of gay and trans identity. This song inspired a Brazilian telenovela. And Daniel Zamudio used to sing it to his mother. Here’s a tiny excerpt from the lyrics:
Como quisiera, ay, que tu vivieras // Que tus ojitos jamás se hubieran cerrado nunca //Y estar mirándolos.
Amor eterno, e inolvidable // Tarde o temprano estaré contigo //para seguir amándonos.
How I wish, ay, that you lived // That your eyes never had closed // And to be looking at them.
Eternal and unforgettable love //Sooner or later I will be with you // To continue loving each other.
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