Today I pray for people in Africa and throughout the world who long for freedom because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It grieves me to be retiring at this crucial moment in history, so I write to you in this open letter, to invite you to pick up the work that remains to be done. More than 70 countries still imprison or execute gay and transgender people, and bullying and murders are all too common. This must change. Each of you is called to respond to God’s urgency for love and life. So whether you are in South Africa, the United States or anywhere else, humanity needs to accept its own diversity as a gift from our Creator. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are part of our family of God. I have always striven for a life of love in action. Many told me to stop. They called me a communist or they told me that I might be killed. Now, I have lived long, and one choice that comes with age is how to deal with our own mortality. Should we be more careful or be more bold? Should we rest on our laurels or respond to the urgency of justice? Boldly, I urge all faith leaders and politicians to stop persecuting people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Every day people live in fear because of who they love. We are talking about our family members, our flesh and blood, our humanity. LGBT people are in our villages, towns, cities, countries — and our whole world. In South African churches we have sung, “Oh freedom! Freedom is coming, oh yes, I know.” We sang this chorus at the lowest points of our journey toward freedom against the racist and colonialist system of apartheid, and we still sing it to this day. Freedom is coming — and those of us who have freedom must speak out for those whose freedom is under attack. We can and must make a difference.
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