Christian group goes viral after stunning Pride march with message of love

A Christian group has gone viral after turning up to a Pride parade with heartwarming signs apologising for their past behaviour.

Manila Pride in the Philippines was reportedly attended by more than 20,000 people, but it was the members of the Church of Freedom in Christ Ministries who caused the biggest stir.

Congregants from the church, which calls itself “inclusive, LGBT affirming and welcoming,” caused people to burst into tears with signs carrying messages like “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”

The attendees wanted to make amends (JAMBIyutiful/twitter)

These messages of positivity were in clear contrast with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has spoken out against transgender people and rejected same-sex marriages.

Other well-wishers from the church used placards to tell those marching: “God loves you. So do we,” “I used to be a bible-banging homophobe. Sorry!” and, in one case, to ask: “Can we hug you?”

A giant banner carried by several members at the June 30 event said: “I’m sorry. We’re here to apologise for the ways that we as Christians have harmed the LGBT community,” before listing the various missteps the group wanted to apologise for.

“For hiding behind religion when really I was just scared,” it started. “I have looked down on you instead of honouring your humanity.

For not listening. I’ve looked at you as a sex act instead of a child of God. I’ve rejected and hurt your family in the name of ‘family values.’

“For judging you,” it added.

The signs were a roaring success with Pride attendees, and one, Jamilah Salvador, posted a tweet about them which went viral, attracting around 170,000 retweets and likes.

The 19-year-old wrote: “I literally cried when I saw this kanina. Imagine living in a society with nothing but love and respect for each other. ”

Speaking to local news outlet Coconuts Manila, Jamilah revealed: “A video from my friend showed that they were actually roaming around the venue so everyone may see and read their messages.”

She added that the signs had been part of a general sense of acceptance at the parade.

“On my way there, I was already feeling so giddy and nervous at the same time,” said Jamilah. “But when I entered the venue, seeing all those rainbow flags made me feel I’m home.

“The first thing that came to my mind was: ‘Finally, I belong.’”

Val Paminiano, the church’s pastor, told BuzzFeed News that the signs were part of a four-year-long campaign.

The signs were a roaring success with Pride attendees (JAMBIyutiful/twitter)

He explained: “We are apologising for the way Christians have hurt the LGBT community, especially by using the Bible in condemning and judging them.

“I used to believe that God condemns homosexuals, but when I studied the scriptures, especially the ones that we call ‘clobber scriptures’ that are being cherry-picked from the Bible to condemn LGBT people, I realised that there’s a lot to discover, including the truth that God is not against anyone.

“God does not discriminate against people based on gender,” he added, before encouraging others to follow his church’s lead.

“We pray that more and more Christians will act, speak, and love the LGBT people like Jesus would,” said Paminiano.

President Duterte has said that when criminals are sent to prison, they become “beyond reform” because they “would have acquired latent homosexuality”.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he gives a speech during the mass oath taking of officials of various national leagues at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on June 1, 2017. Philippine airstrikes aimed at Islamist militants who are holding hostages as human shields in a southern city killed 11 soldiers, authorities said on June 1, as they conceded hundreds of gunmen may have escaped a blockade. / AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he gives a speech (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

He said convicts were “already monsters in the sense that they are incapable of establishing a relationship with a woman.

“They develop aberration of the mind. They do not want to get out of prison because they get free food there…and they have lovers, they want to return to prison [to be] with their lovers.”

And when the chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, criticised Duterte for an anti-drug campaign that has killed thousands of people, the President asked whether Gascon was gay or a paedophile.

He reportedly said at a press conference: “Why is this guy so suffocated with the issue of young people, especially boys?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) stands next to newly-installed army commanding general Major General Rolando Bautista (R) during the turn-over ceremony of the army commanding general at Fort Bonifacio in Manila on October 5, 2017. Newly installed army commanding general Major General Rolando Bautista said in his speech the army hopes to end the war in Marawi at the end of October. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Duterte has made several inflammatory comments about LGBT people (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty)

“Are you a paedophile? Why are you smitten with teenagers?” he asked.

“Are you? I’m having my doubts. Are you gay or a paedophile?”

Duterte also made anti-gay comments about US Ambassador Philip Goldberg in 2016, saying: “I had an argument with their gay ambassador, the son of a whore. He pissed me off.”