By Bijay Kumar Minj
Transgender people have for the first time addressed what is billed as Asia’s largest annual Christian gathering.
The Maramon Convention attracts an estimated 160,000 people daily for a week-long gathering of sermons and songs, exhorting people to practice their faith by following Bible teachings.
Two transgender women, Selin Thomas and Sreekutty, who only goes by one name, spoke of the need for social change to accept sexual minority people like them and ensure them equal rights.
Inviting them to speak at the Feb. 11-18 event was to express the church’s commitment to work with the sexual minority group, said Metropolitan Joseph Mar Thoma, supreme head of the Mar Thoma Church, which organizes the event.
The Mar Thoma Church is one of seven Kerala churches that trace their faith to St. Thomas the Apostle, who according to a tradition preached along India’s western coast.
“It’s estimated that there are more than 40,000 transgender people in Kerala, but they are marginalized,” Metropolitan Joseph Mar Thoma said.
The church plans to set up a facility for transgender people in Kerala and plans a series of projects to provide them with schooling, counseling and sexual reassignment surgery for those wishing to have it, local media reports said.
The Maramon Convention has been held each year since 1895 at Maramon, a village in central Kerala, on a large sand-bed of the Pampa River.