During April, IAM held our annual workshop with Master students in the Gender, Health, and Religion programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. This incubator aims to create a space for critical, embodied reflection around the complexity and intersectionality of gender, sexuality, and religion. The workshop empowers participants to engage creatively with diversity regarding SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics). 

The stark realities of queer Africans and their experiences in faith communities was highlighted, as one participant noted: 

“Most LGBTIQI+ people are choosing not to attend church, and some are committing suicide. Relatives and close families are hurt when they realize that their family members are excluded and marginalised due to how they feel. It’s high time we close the gap.”

The workshop thereby also acts as an incubator to explore capacity building that supports the theoretical knowledge gained through their academic work and other pedagogies.  This is done through IAM’s contextual strategies for constructing a space conducive for dialogue (rather than debate); reflective practices to explore individual narratives on faith, gender, and sexuality; Contextual Bible Reading; embodied spiritual practices; informal learning spaces to address contextual challenges; and peer accompaniment. 

Commenting on the process of contextual reading of Genesis 18 and 19, one participant remarked:

“I was so shocked to discover for the first time that there was no factual evidence of the homosexual act taking place in the Lot story, but that as a church we have missed out on such a fast knowledge and insight on hospitality and xenophobic acknowledgement of such experiences in our church history” 

Another participant added:

“The contextual reading of the Bible was eye opening and encouraged me to revisit the way in which the Bible has been taught to me as well as equipping me with the tools to use biblical hermeneutics within my own context.” 

There was a tangible change in how participants understood the realities of gender and sexuality. This included taking an intersectional look at queer realities.

“My ability to use an intersectional lens to view situations in my community was improved as I have a more practical outlook on intersectionality”

Finally, it is encouraging to see that perceptions can change, and learning to see others’ realities is always an embodied, collective experience. 

“We actually came in thinking we will challenge the team with this agenda of theirs …Well we found ourselves repenting for thinking we knew anything about what this community goes through. We were ignorant. Of course this doesn’t mean we get it all, but we see differently now. Our perception has been tempered with, we are changing.”

For more information or questions, contact Dr Louis van der Riet – louis@iam.org.za