Back in March I was pleased that the Faith Mission Shop in Queen Street, Belfast had removed Chick Tracts from sale given the homophobic views expressed in them. Yesterday I was disappointed with Faith Mission.
After my blog post in March I had gone in to see this for myself. Whilst there I asked if there were any books on living with HIV – as there were many on living with cancer. I was pointed to a small section marked ‘ethics’. At this point I saw three words next to each other on a shelf which was immediately below the shelf marked ‘Homosexuality‘.
Given that since my diagnosis, I have been told that being diagnosed with HIV is not a death sentence, I was rather concerned at the message that can be read by this grouping of subjects. I asked to speak to the manager, who said that he took on board my concerns and that he would look at the layout again. From my visit yesterday it is clear that there is no intention to make any change whatsoever. It is bad enough that they use AIDS instead of HIV. But grouping it with SUICIDE and DEATH is even worse.
It is sad to think that any of us living in Belfast who are also living with HIV cannot go into a major Christian bookshop in our own city and have to face the grouping of our illness with death and suicide, instead of alongside other illnesses like cancer and anxiety.
It is not just putting AIDS alongside Death and Suicide that is my problem, it is the association with Homosexuality. Yes, many people living with HIV are gay men. But they are not alone. And the churches across Northern Ireland are going to have to start realising this. It is not a virus that discriminates against those that are homosexual.
It is a virus that can affect anybody: anybody who is having unsafe sexual intercourse. Yet we do not hear anything about this message from our leaders at Stormont, or by our leaders in the churches.
This is one reason why I keep talking about living with HIV, why I make sure that friends know that I am living with HIV. They see me taking my medication and others find out when they see me wearing a red ribbon.
Of course, the churches in Northern Ireland and across the world need to be able to work with those who are living with HIV, just as much as those that are LGBT. Some of us fit into both categories, and sometimes it feels like the churches hate us. I’m sure that’s not what they mean, but quite often that is how it comes across.
So, I will continue to fight. I will continue to stand up for what is right. I will continue to work with organisations like The HIV Support Centre, Belfast Pride, and to support the Faith and Pride blog. After all, I believe that the Jesus that all the churches claim to follow would be with those who are the outcasts of society. Was this not what He did in first-century Palestine? If it is good enough for Him then, why is it not now?
- Diversity and Judgement (faithandpride.org)
- This Nigerian Killed Himself Because He Was Hiv+ (realissuesng.wordpress.com)
- David Ernesto Munar: Making the Fourth Decade of AIDS the Last (huffingtonpost.com)