A group of Pacific Island LGBTIQ elders have penned a powerful open letter calling for rugby star Israel Folau to be more respectful amid the furore over his anti-gay social media comment.
Folau came under intense criticism for writing a now-deleted comment on Instagram that “God’s plan” for gay people was “hell” unless they “repented for their sins”.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said on Tuesday after a meeting that Folau acknowledged the offence his comments had caused and would “go away and think about” his social media conduct.
“For him he is proud of what he is and what he stands for, so he wants to make sure that we are not asking him to compromise those beliefs,” Castle said.
“But at the same time very much we explained to him that this is challenging for us and… how can he find a way that makes sure that he is not disrespectful, but it doesn’t compromise his own personal beliefs.”
Meanwhile, a group of LGBTIQ elders from Tonga and Samoa have written a powerful response to Folau amid the furore over the comment.
Tongan elder Joleen Mataele Brown, who is a transgender ‘leiti’, and Samoans Fiaailetoa Kenneth Moala and Ymania Brown from transgender advocacy group Samoa Fa’afafine Association penned the open letter encouraging Folau to be respectful and follow the principles of his Christian faith.
“We believe that God has no other plan for gay people other than to celebrate their humanity and the deeds they perform in loving unconditionally their fellow human beings,” they wrote.
“You profess to be a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ yet where is that Christ-like love for your fellow Australian and Pasefika LGBTI family?
“If you opened your heart, and see Jesus for what he really is, full of light and love and grace and humility and non-judgment and peace and acceptance, you too can be a part of Jesus’s team even if you sin differently to [us].
“A lot of people look up to you, Israel. You and your words have power, privilege and meaning. Young kids look up to you as an award-winning sportsman. What you say stays in the hearts and minds of young Australians and Pasefika children.
“And that hatred, that vilification, that condemnation you have for LGBTIQ Australians and Pasefika is planted as seeds in their young, impressionable minds.
“One day, when an Australian or Psefika LGBTIQ person is walking home at night, one of those young minds, now grown up, may decide to turn that seed into action and end up hurting, injuring, maiming and possibly ending the life of that Australian and Pasefika LGBTIQ individual.
“We have been in hospital ICU units in Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia when our faces and bodies have been beaten beyond recognition, we have held lifeless bodies who have succumbed to suicide, we have comforted parents of Australian and Pasefika LGBTI children who have died because of this mindless bullying.
“And you may deny that, as ‘I am only saying what I feel, and I will not be held responsible for the actions of another human being,’ but we know better because for over 40 years we have been at the receiving end of that condemnation, hatred, and vilification.”
They called on Folau to make a donation to a crowdfunding campaign raising money to repair the Tonga Leitis Association’s drop-in centre, which is as a local shelter for LGBTIQ youth rejected by their families and communities.
The building was badly damaged in Tropical Cyclone Gita in February, and the group has so far raised more than $7500 through the campaign.
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