St. Peter’s has joined 22 other Episcopal congregations in becoming a Rainbow Initiative Congregation. The Rainbow Initiative is a program of Episcopal Migration Ministries that empowers congregations to support LGBTQIA+ migrants. Together, we will bring visibility and aid to those who have fled their countries because of persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and/or sex characteristics.

It is illegal to be LGBTQ+ in about 70 countries, and 11 now prescribe the death penalty. In many more countries, attacks and murder against LGBTQ+ people go unprosecuted. LGBTQ+ forced migrants are more likely to be asylum seekers or undocumented immigrants, which means they are unable to work legally for at least 180 days after they have filed their asylum application, and they are ineligible for many government-funded benefit programs. Many LGBTQ+ people are alienated from the social support systems that most forced migrants depend on in order to survive, such as their families and ethnic community associations. This social isolation, coupled with the lack of work authorization, makes them particularly vulnerable to homelessness, extreme poverty, and exploitation.

Nevertheless, LGBTQ+ forced migrants are often strong, determined, and hopeful: Successfully fleeing from persecution requires enormous strength and determination. They bring their talents and energy to their new communities. And throughout their journeys towards safety, they are driven by hope for a better future. 

The call to “welcome the stranger” through protection and hospitality is deeply rooted in many religions, including Christianity. Christian scripture and tradition emphasize seeing Jesus in all people, and particularly in those who are persecuted and in need of help. Religion is interwoven with the persecution many LGBTQ+ people experience. It can also be interwoven with their welcome and healing.