INTeRo Centar: Human Rights in Croatia

Belonging to a religious community is both important and a matter of course in the lives of many Croats. After their coming-out, lesbians, gays, transsexuals (LGBTQ+) are often excluded from communities, rejected by their families and discriminated by society. The INTeRo Centar in Rijeka offers LGBTQ+ people a place to exchange information and ideas. It also takes homosexuality and spirituality into churches and communities.

LGBTQ+ Christians in Croatia often keep their sexuality secret in order to remain a part of the church community and to avoid derision and exclusion. This automatically means living a life in permanent fear and with false compromises, which in turn leads to depression and suicide. Many have left the church, unable to see a way of combining their faith and their sexual identity. Secular LGBTQ+ organisations defend themselves against the defamation by the church and consequently reject spirituality as a matter of principle. Religious homosexuals thus cannot find their place in society.

Although a recent law in Croatia allows LGBTQ+ people to enter into civil union, the Conservative Party is still trying to change this law, with the support of the church. The prospect of LGBTQ+ people being accepted in Croatia is rather unstable.

Mihael Sečen and Neda Popović from the INTeRo Centar in Rijeka have been offering for many years seminars, group and individual discussions on non-violent communication, ways of dealing with war trauma, are filling this gap in Croatian society.  They offer support to LGBTQ+ people who value their spirituality, as well as to their families and friends. They take non-violence as the basis for mutually respected dialogue with the aim of allowing all parties to be heard and taken seriously. They want to demystify: to show that spirituality does not need a conservative attitude and that being a Christian does not mean the same as being heterosexual. For this purpose, they offer discussions and groups, go into church communities and inform people.

Group InvaluableThe project "Invaluable" provides LGBTQ+ people with the opportunity to exchange ideas and information, to be a source strength one another and to find a spiritual home. They celebrate Easter and Christmas together if there is no place for them in their own families. This is where they feel accepted as they are, with their sexuality, their spirituality (or their atheism), with their questions, their doubts and their joy of life.

At the 70th anniversary celebration of Church & Peace 2019, Mihael Sečen from INTeRo gave a sermon impulse to Jeremiah 29:11: "So what do these words mean to me today? It means challenging myself when I am afraid to take another step and accept a challenge, even though I might not feel enough". Here you can read the whole text