ERG/AOP Chairman invites ‘dialogue not tension – and government must react’

‘This is a small community, and we have to do everything we can to live in peace with and for each other, respecting our differences,’ Equality Rights Group/Action on Poverty Chair, Felix Alvarez said in response to reports of an increase in negative online reactions to LGBT+ issues from some quarters following the celebration of Pride this past weekend.

Mr. Alvarez has written to both the Chief Minister and the Commissioner of Police ‘expressing much concern at the situation’.

‘Observing developments over the past two years, I have for some time now been both publicly and privately cautioning Government of the likelihood of increasing risks to community cohesion, peace, and LGBT+ peoples’ situation. But to no avail.

‘Today we may be reaping the first fruits of what has been sown in the past two years.

‘Sensitive and early dialogue with all parties needs to take place if we are to avoid the trends increasing. It’s always important to listen, and listen well, to all sides. The problems will not disappear by merely looking the other way. People have issues that need addressing.

‘Homophobic sentiment is something that has been practically unknown over the past twentythree years since ERG started campaigning for justice for the sexually-diverse community of Gibraltar.

“This is because we have always set great store on managing social change with care and prudence. Unfortunately, caution has been thrown to the wind of late by those who should know better.

‘It’s thus no surprise that now, following the second Government-fronted Pride event, sectors of our society are discomfited by an organised shift to a less integrative approach to managing the social transitions to change in the tiny community we inhabit.

‘We understand their concerns. And both Government and its Equality Ministry should react with similar sensitivity.

‘ERG/AOP respects human rights across all sectors of our community. We believe in listening to all sides in the interests of co-existence.

‘On a separate note, and prior to this, I have already invited the Parents Voice Gibraltar (PVG) group for discussions on their expressed concerns regarding sex education curricula, though without response as yet; and I extend the invitation to others with worries on these issues. Dialogue not tension is the answer.

‘As Chair of ERG/AOP I will listen to all sides, while clearly pointing to compliance with all legal protections enshrined in law.

‘We trust Government will not ignore these early signs of friction. They can certainly bank on my support in favour of reconciliation and mutual respect. The solutions are clear: opting for a more prudent approach to administrative patronage and sponsorship in order to foster and build a climate of peaceful co-existence and understanding within competing sectors of our community, or risk continuing to nourish sentiments in our society contrary to long-term well-being.

‘Singling out people groups is one of History’s grossest errors. And one we can’t afford to ignore or repeat’ the statement ended.