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The popular framing of religious activism in Australia is as a conservative tradition, enlisting congregational foot soldiers to stem the tide of progressive agendas.However, religious activists have been equally involved in struggles for social justice, and the current marriage equality debates have featured notable interventions from religious figures and churches supportive of marriage equality. LGBTI figures have been prominent in religious activism in recent years, and this panel seeks to highlight some of this activism and how it is informing current political debates.

Join us at Loop Project Space & Bar for a panel discussion as part of LGBTI History Month featuring:

Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones (chair)
Imam Nur Warsame
Francis Voon
Luke Gahan
Additional speaker TBA

Chair: Rev Dr. Avril Hannah-Jones was ordained in 2008 and currently ministers at the Williamstown Uniting Church. Avril identifies as bisexual; has a strong commitment to principles of social justice and inclusion; and is committed to making the Uniting Church a safe and welcoming place for LGBTI and all other people. Her sermons and reflections can be found on her blog: https://revdocgeek.com/.

Imam Nur Warsame, is a gay Somali-born Melbourne-based independent imam, Australia’s first, and so far only, openly gay imam. For three years, Imam Nur has run the support group Marhaba (www.marhaba.org.au) covertly in a range of community halls across Melbourne. Read more: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/05/02/meet-australias-first-openly-gay-imam;http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-29/secret-mosques-doors-lgbti-muslims/7341142.

Francis Voon is a gay Australian man of Malaysian-Chinese heritage with a Catholic-Interfaith background, who is currently the Faith and Multicultural Outreach Coordinator with the Equality Campaign. In this role he has organised various events, including the 2016 National Forum on Faith and Civil Marriage Equality, that brought together leaders from Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities in to discuss civil marriage equality and LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Dr Luke Gahan is a Lecturer in Sociology at Federation University. Gahan was the founding convenor of Australian Marriage Equality (AME) in 2004, the former Victorian Director of the LGBTI Health Alliance, and was a board member of both the NSW and Victorian, gay and lesbian rights lobbies. In the early days of AME, Luke advocated for engagement with religious groups to encourage them to support and call for marriage equality as part of their religious freedoms. Gahan co-edited the book ‘Heaven Bent’ a collection of research and stories exploring Australian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex experiences of faith, religion and spirituality. Luke Gahan grew up Baptist in the suburbs of Melbourne where he attended a Christian Science school for a couple of years. While studying theology at a Catholic University in Kentucky Luke spent time at the Abbey of Gethsemane and studied the writings of Father Thomas Merton. Before becoming an Atheist, Luke was baptised by the Metropolitan Community Church in Sydney and was a member of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).

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