Meet Victor Ciobotaru
Victor is a 32 year-old LGBT rights activist that has a BA in Pastoral Theology and also a BA in Sociology,as an MA in Gender and Minorities Policies.
He pursued theological studies because he perceived that the Church would allow him to get involved even more in activities with a social impact. His dream was to become a pastor, because he saw pastors as agents of social change, contributing to solving the problems of the community, be them economic, social or even psychological ones. But he understood that he could never be himself as a gay person if he was to go down that path. He wouldn’t tolerate the thought of lying to himself and to the community.
He came out during 2018 referendum campaign that was organized in order to limit LGBT rights. He got triggered by the hate narratives that were developed during the campaign – a campaign that was marked by negative stereotypes and fake religious arguments.
Religious fundamentalism comes in many shapes, it is not only homophobic. It’s also misogynist and racist.
The revelatory moment
During a debate on the biblical implications of Sodom and Gomorrah his teacher, a very respectful and experienced pastor bluntly stated that „There is no sense to debate about homosexuals. They’re just some beasts that brutally kill each other.” At that moment Victor felt that this view, that had nothing to do with a Christian way of looking at life, was profoundly unjust. He felt he needed to fight two monsters at once: homophobia and religious fundamentalism.
The first victory
He is most happy whenever people that grew up in very religious and strict families reach out to him and they confess that thanks to his activity they saw that they can live both as gay people and as Christians realized that there is no conflict between religious affiliation and sexual orientation and came to peace with themselves.
The bumps in the road
Victor regrets that he wasn’t able to engage his Church in a public dialogue when it excommunicated him for coming out as a gay person during the 2018 referendum campaign that was organized in order to limit LGBT rights. He knew that the Church had no interest in a public debate on this topic, but he hoped he could pursue them to send out a more humane message with regards to homosexuality. He says that he hasn’t abandoned the idea and intends to continue to try to reach out to his Church.
He doesn’t usually feel stressed because he has gotten to know the type of people with whom he is engaging in debates well enough to predict the arguments they are going to make. He has understood that it is not worthy to engage in dialogue with anybody and when he feels that there isn’t any openness towards an exchange of ideas, he doesn’t feel the need to step in. However, there have been cases when he met some of his hardcore opponents offline and their behaviour made him feel uneasy and unsafe.
Extremism explained to a 5-year-old
Victor would argue with the well-known saying that it’s also a biblical reference (Gospel of Luke 6.31) “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Extremism explained to family and friends
He devoted his last years explaining that religious fundamentalism is a form of extremism. in his opinion, religious arguments could not be used to set limits neither in the public sphere nor in private life of people. In this regard he evokes Frank Schaffer, an American author that has extensively documented religion’s interference in modern societies.
Some thoughts for undecided activists
One needs to be true to oneself and one’s own values. Irrespective of the cause people advocate for, they must be authentic, because this is the most valuable and perceivable asset one can have.
Adequate responses in uncomfortable situations
Victor claims that he has developed an “extremists’ radar” so he can anticipate when he is confronted with a convinced extremist. In these cases, he does not insist on generating debates or opinion clashes because he knows that it’s almost impossible to engage in civil debate or dialogue.
Challenge your inner activist
Sometimes, the best civil attitude is to live and let live, Victor says. It’s the golden rule that should guide every individual. As for the people who are mistakenly use religion as a civic duty, Victor challenge them to reflect if religion and spirituality truly turned into better persons. If not, then they missed their purpose.