Two years ago, a 15 year old boy -Sergio Urrego- took a picture of himself kissing his boyfriend. One of his teachers found this photo and shared it with the leadership of the school. It triggered a formal investigation because a kiss of two people of the same sex was against the “moral and religious principles of the institution.” What started with a simple kiss ended up in tragedy: a few months after, tired of feeling persecuted, Sergio committed suicide.
My experience in the Colombian context has shown me that there are other Sergios out there and that most often the only religion they know is more interested in defending beliefs and dogmas than in protecting and nurturing their congregants. What saddens me the most is that minorities, such as the LGBT community, tend to associate the word “religion” with exclusion and intolerance… they just don’t know there are alternatives. They don’t know that we exist.
I wonder what would have happened if Sergio had found Unitarian/Universalism, a caring and welcoming spiritual community willing to embrace him. I wonder what would had happened if he had found a ministry that would have blessed him and his love and accepted him the way he was. Would he still be alive? While we will never know the answer to this question for Sergio, we can certainly give others the option to choose a different path.
Unitarian/Universalism with its open mindedness, inclusivity and respect for different ways of being and believing has a message of hope that can alleviate suffering and pain. One of the main goals of the Latino Ministry is to help our faith become more visible to the Spanish speaking population so people in need of an open hearted spiritual community can find us.
With 400 million Spanish speakers in the world this is a task that requires strong allies. The Latino ministry started as an initiative of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. A year later, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists and the International office of the UUA came on board. Each institution brings to the table a pool of knowledge, experience and resources that makes our outreach and service to the community much more powerful and effective.
We also partner with and support local people and communities. The technology available today allows us to work together and cooperate in ways that were impossible a couple of decades ago. Through our Facebook group, webpage, email and communication platforms, such as Skpye, we have created a strong network of volunteers and spiritual seekers that live in countries such as Argentina, Spain, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Estados Unidos and Cuba. The miracle of technology allows us the opportunity to find inspiration and support in each other
And as we move forward, slowly but surely, our personal faith gets stronger, our connection continues strengthening and our local and online communities keep growing. We know that we must continue doing so, so we can help create the world we want: a world where the Sergios, and the people who are persecuted for being different, can live in peace.
There are many ways you can support the Latino Ministry. You can make a contribution through the ICUU website. You can share our Facebook page and website with other who might be interested in be part of our community. You can talk about our work with your fellow congregants and friends. Or you can call or send us en email to learn more about our work.
Rev. Jorge Espinel was born and raised in Colombia. He studied at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, USA and graduated with a master’s of divinity in 2013. He was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister in 2014 and shortly after he returned to his country of origin. As director of the Latino ministry Jorge works as a local consultant for the ICUU and in close cooperation with the Church of the Larger Fellowship and the International Office of the UUA to provide support to Spanish speaking U/U’s around the world. Jorge also serves in his local community, using the tools of ministry, yoga and mindfulness to assist people in their quest to find meaning and wellbeing.