A Christian group’s refreshingly heartfelt message to thousands of revelers at a Pride march in the Philippines this weekend has struck a chord with LGBTQ people worldwide.
Members of the Church of Freedom in Christ Ministries, which bills itself as “an inclusive and LGBT affirming” evangelical and Pentecostal church in Makati, the Philippines, appeared Saturday at the annual event, which was being held at a sports complex in Marikina.
Parishioners at the June 30 festivities carried placards and banners that offered an apology for the way some Christians have hurt LGBTQ people through their actions and words over the years.
One banner read, “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” Another declared, “I’m sorry I’ve rejected and hurt your family in the name of family values.”
The Christian group caught the eye of 19-year-old Jamilah Salvador, who snapped a couple photos of the banners and posted them on Twitter. Her tweet quickly went viral and had received over 40,000 retweets and 122,000 likes as of Monday afternoon.
Attending her very first Pride, Salvador told local news outlet Coconuts Manila that she was impressed with the group’s effort to make its presence known to all of the attendees, who numbered an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people.
“A video from my friend showed that they were actually roaming around the venue so everyone may see and read their messages,” she said. “On my way there, I was already feeling so giddy and nervous at the same time. But when I entered the venue, seeing all those rainbow flags made me feel I’m home.”
Other attendees praised the church’s gesture on social media.
Val Paminiano, a pastor for the church, told BuzzFeed News that members of the congregation have been attending local pride celebrations for about four years now. The “I’m Sorry” campaign, he said, is aimed at inspiring other Christians to “act, speak and love the LGBT people like Jesus would.”
“We are apologizing for the way Christians have hurt the LGBT community, especially by using the Bible in condemning and judging them,” Paminiano said. “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 realized that there’s a lot to discover, including the truth that God is not against anyone.”
He added, “God does not discriminate against people based on gender.”