For the last 9-months as a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow, I have been living in Bucharest Romania exploring the role that technology has played in the development of Romania civic identity. The story is long and winding so I will begin from the beginning.
The first individual I worked with was Victor Ciobotaru on a film entitled, Brothers in Faith.
Brothers in Faith traces the developing civic consciousness of Victor Ciobotaru, a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor and emerging LGBTQ activist in Romania who was unjustly excluded from the church after condemning denouncing a church-supported referendum intended to prevent gay marriage in early October, publicly outing himself in the process.
In protesting his exclusion and the subsequent silence from the Church, Victor gathered the courage take pen to paper, writing a public and critical open letter to the Romanian Adventist leadership, beautifully and fervently advocating for the human rights and dignity of the Romanian LGBTI community. "I am writing this letter in... the name of all those in the Adventist Church who have not yet the courage to make their voices heard," he writes, alluding to the many still closeted members suffering of silence within the church. While Victor’s letter is addressed to the Romanian Adventist Church, he also seeks to speak broadly to other religious institutions such as the powerful Romanian Orthodox Church.
Central to the film lies the hypocrisy of the church, that it can still cordially address him as “Dear brother Victor," in his condemnatory exclusion letter. Victor recounts his journey as a gay pastor and emerging Romanian LGBTI activist; from his early struggles to unify his sexual and spiritual identities, to the painful yet empowering moments in early October 2018 that compelled him to risk his safety and career to speak out against Romanian religious institutions, in order to imagine more inclusive spaces of worship. “LGBTI people are an integral part of a church. It's time for the Church to treat them all as equals, with respect, as valuable beings in the eyes of God,” he exclaims.
Victor has worked hard to create space for others in the Romanian LGBTQI of faith like him through his work with ACCEPT, a Romanian human rights organization started in the early 2000s by his partner and activist, Florin Buhuceanu. In this space, Victor works to demonstrate his philosophy of inclusive pastoralism with his members, striving to use the Bible as a tool for inclusion rather than a weapon.