I am Filipino, and like the vast majority of people in my country, I am a proud Catholic. I have a steadfast faith, and my religion is an essential element of who I am. Growing up, my family regularly attended mass, and I studied at a school that taught Christian fundamentals.
Religious establishments including the Catholic church teach that they are the one true faith, but the values instilled in me as a Christian have encouraged me to respect all beliefs and opinions. Growing up, my family taught me that to receive respect, you must first offer it.
My younger sister and I were raised by a single mother in Cagayan de Oro, a multi-ethnic environment and burgeoning city in the southern part of the Philippines that has earned the moniker “City of Golden Friendship.” My hometown serves as the gateway to Mindanao, the country’s second biggest island and home to people of many different religions and backgrounds. Growing up in such a diverse culture taught me the virtue of acceptance early in life and made me recognize that tolerance should be the norm, not the exception.
I am proud that the Philippines is every day becoming a more tolerant community; however, my liberal opinions on many social issues sometimes conflict with Christianity’s teachings.
I myself owe a lot to the LGBTQ community, many of whom are my closest friends. Without their accepting attitudes toward my own flaws and struggles, I would not be where I am today. But while we are beginning to see the seeds of change in the Catholic church, the LGBTQ community in the Philippines doesn’t yet enjoy equal rights.
Perhaps my non–traditional family unit allowed me to accept others’ differences without judgement and has made me proud to advocate for LGBTQ rights as a Christian. In fact, I find the strength to do just that through my faith. Undoubtedly, there will continue to be times when my faith and secular opinions clash, but in those moments, I find comfort in an old saying: “Live and let live.”
Pia Wurtzbach, an actress, TV host and model, was crowned Miss Universe 2015.
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