Israel Folau is a internationally renowned rugby union player and devout Christian of Tongan descent. He courted controversy last week when he said God’s plan for gay people was ‘HELL’ unless they repented. Here in an open letter to Folau from three fierce South Pacific LGBTIQ and human rights activists.
Dear Israel Folau,
We am writing with the utmost respect for you as a human rights activist who has done some good for the community, and in the spirit of reconciliation because initially we were filled with darkness and anger when we read your comments, at first.
We want to thank you for your honesty in expressing your freedom of speech in the condemnation of Australian and Pasefika LGBTIQ Australians.
But brother, we can barely make out what you said because of the noise.
You see Israel, 2018 is a busy day at the marketplace of humanity where thousands of other human rights violations and issues are sold to the highest bidder.
You’ve only just come on board by standing at the bus-stop and yelling and passing judgment about what God would do, but sadly for you, I think God is a little busy right now to be condemning some of his children to hell.
By the way, its not the first time someone of fame and fortune has attacked LGBTIQ in Australia and in the Pacific and indeed the world.
This, your telling us Australian and Pasefika LGBTIQ that we will burn in hell for our sins, you’re just having a bad day and saying the common urban vernacular “Go to Hell”!
We know you don’t mean what you’re saying Israel because you’ve been supporting and fighting homophobia in sports for years. Why, you even landed a Sydney Star Observer cover in 2014.
Let’s talk about hypocrisy
But whilst you’re waiting and reflecting on that stupid act, allow us to educate you about the meaning of hypocrisy.
And remember last year when you tweeted during the marriage equality campaign:
‘I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage?’
The book of Leviticus is what you are using to base your condemnations on – but you forget to mention that Leviticus also bans any marks and tattoos on our bodies. You may have missed that lesson at Sunday School, so no biggie we suppose but let that sink in for a minute.
While you’re thinking about whether you are a hypocrite your not, we want to remind you that it is one thing to be anti-LGBTIQ, its another to bite the hands that feed you.
Your fame and fortune is tied to your incredible skills as a sportsman. And sports is big business in Australia. Its why you will be meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) with Rugby Australia, because three of its biggest sponsors… have weighed in and inadvertently asked Rugby Australia to tell you to ‘tone it down’, or in other words, ‘shut up’.
We know Jesus is on our side
Which brings me to a long laboured point – you see Israel, you’re nothing to us but another judgmental Pacific sports idol like many before you, that have used God’s words in absentia in order to judge, oppress and vilify the already marginalised Australian and Pasefika LGBTI citizens.
Israel, if only you knew that Jesus, the son of God whose name you invoke, his ministry was not economically rich and overpaid sports players of his time, but with the sinners, the downtrodden, the sexually immoral, the prostitutes, the lepers, and the unwanted and the forgotten. You probably do, right?
We, as Australian and Pasefika LGBTI citizens don’t need your condemnation because deep down, we KNOW Jesus is on my side. Deep down, we KNOW Jesus came for us, and not for some sanctimonious overpaid homophobic sports/muscle gladiator.
The reason why we know this is because Jesus lives in our houses, in our hearts and not in shiny glass houses favoured by people like you.
Ok enough with the banter, you can change Israel. You can, if you really want to.
If you opened your heart, and see Jesus for what he really is, full of light and love and grace and humility and non-judgmental and peace and acceptance, you too can be a part of Jesus’s team even if you sin differently to me.
And just so we are clear, my God and my Jesus are not homophobic. Let me repeat that. GOD AND JESUS ARE NOT HOMOPHOBIC.
Maybe you’re just scared Israel, maybe like us and everyone else we all say stupid things.
But the difference is that my saying Go To Hell and you saying Gay People Will Burn in hell for Their Sins, is not the same thing.
Homophobia and transphobia kills
See, you saying that kills people like me. How?
Because a lot of people look up to you Israel. You and your words have power, privilege, meaning. Young kids look up to you as an award winning sportsman.
What you say, stays in the hearts and minds of young Australians and Pasefika children.
And that hatred, that vilification, that condemnation you have for LGBTIQ Australians and Pasefika are now planted as seeds in their young impressionable minds.
And one day, when an Australian or Psefika LGBTIQ person is walking home at night and one of those young minds, now grown up decides to exercise their ‘freedom of speech’… will turn that seed into action and end up hurting, injuring, maiming and possibly ending the life of that Australian and Pasefika LGBTIQ individual.
Worse than that, it may not even get to that stage when they get older – they will use your seeds to vilify, bully and ostracise Australian and Pasefika LGBTI to the point where those weak souls will have no choice but to take their own lives.
And you may deny that, as ‘I am only saying what I feel, and I will not be held responsible for the actions of another human being’, but we know better because for over 40 years we have been at the receiving end of that condemnation, hatred, and vilification.
We have been in hospital ICU units in Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia when our faces and bodies have been beaten beyond recognition, we have held lifeless bodies who have succumbed to suicide, we have comforted parents of Australian and Pasefika LGBTI children who have died because of this mindless bullying, all because some sports playing hetero jock decided that we should be taught a lesson for being a fag, a tranny, a cross dresser, a bloke in a dress and so many other un-Christian-like insults.
And think about the Australian and Pasefika LGBTIQ players in rugby – where will they go now? In a code that is doing its best to embrace diversity, that you’ve helped stamp out homophobia, you’ve now turned around and told them to hide, to bury their unique gifts and identities and never ever come out as LGBTIQ because goddamn it Israel says they will be condemned to burn in hell for their sins.
That’s the funny part for us – that you profess to be a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ yet where is that Christ like love for your fellow Australian and Pasefika LGBTI family?
That façade you’ve built for years being the ‘gentleman’ and the ‘good guy’ of rugby, that that veneer is now shattered in pieces.
Be professional, Israel
You are a three time John Eales medallist. Act like one Israel.
Support Australian sport and appreciate the values of Rugby Australia – be passionate about the game and what it brings for ALL citizens including Australian and Pasefika LGBTIQ players, show some integrity and remember you are a part of the human race, not planet Israel, have some discipline and learn that the power of your words has the potential to hurt, main, oppress and may even kill LGBTIQ so maybe tone down your social media presence, be respectful that your actions will not bring the game into disrepute and support your fellow rugby players, professional and social, through teamwork.
We share more than a beautiful country Israel, we call Australia home, we share the same Pacific heritage, yours is Tongan and mine is Samoan and Tongan, we share a love of Christ, but most importantly, we are both human beings.
Let us love one another, and remember to do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.
And because you can afford to, help out our fellow Tongans, the Tonga Leiti Association with their appeal.
Why should you? Not for any reason other than because you can and you are a Christian and that drop-in centre may save the life of one of your relatives who was banished from their family for being a fakaleiti.
Peace out, and Ofa Lahi atu,
Joleen Mataele Brown
Human Rights Activist
Fiaailetoa Kenneth Moala
Human Rights Activist
Human Rights Activist
This post has been edited and you can read the full version here. It was republished on Gay Star News with permission.