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Affirmation Peru Conference Reflects the Light of Diversity

2022 Affirmation Peru Conference 1200x628

by Alejandro Alcántara Carbajal

February 11, 2022

On February 5th and 6th, an Affirmation conference was held in the city of Trujillo, Peru. This was the first Affirmation meeting in the city. The theme of the conference was, “Everyone Shines in Their Own Way.” The conference’s main objective was to help attendees recognize that we can all contribute something of value to the LGBTQIA+ community, our families, and society, despite our differences. We all have talents and abilities that make our contributions unique.

The conference began with activities to help attendees get to know one another. We visited an archaeological site called, “Huaca del Sol y la Luna,” where we learned about the Mochica culture. In addition to being with one another, we enjoyed a presentation from Juan Carlos Peralta who demonstrated customary dances of Peru, called the Marinera.

At the end of our archaeological visit, we played several games and had a volleyball match. Beyond the obvious fun that was had, these games provided an opportunity for us to strengthen our bonds of friendship. There was a lot of laughter as Peruvians are very fond of and competitive in this sport.

As we opened the conference, we sang the hymn, “The Spirit of God,” and felt a great spirit of friendship and fellowship as we began the program to hear messages from the conference speakers. I was the first to speak. I shared some of my personal experiences being a member of the Church and being gay and how I faced challenges when I decided to come out of the closet to my family and how my church leaders reacted. An opportunity for everyone in attendance was given to share their progress toward self-acceptance. For some, there were tears as they remembered difficult experiences. Many expressed how important their families have been on their journey. One commented, “This is the first time I’ve been in a meeting like this. If I had known before that something like this existed, maybe my life would have been different.”

We had the opportunity to hear a message from Dario Lopez de la Caña, president of Affirmation Peru. He began his session by recounting how Affirmation began in Peru and the challenges that had to be overcome to carry out its mission and vision. Each attendee was given a folder with information about Affirmation that included our mission, vision, information on leadership, and the achievements of Affirmation throughout its history.

The last to speak was Juan Carlos Peralta, a member of the Affirmation Board of Directors. He gave an excellent talk on how we can strengthen our self-esteem. He provided real examples of empowerment. He spoke about the diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community and how our differences provide an opportunity for a diversity of talents and skills to bless the lives of those around us. His talk left us uplifted and united us.

To conclude the first day of the conference, all helped to prepare dinner. We made a customary Peruvvian carne asada. During dinner, we had the opportunity to share stories with one another. Following the meal, we danced and socialized. All who attended received a souvenir of the conference from the Affirmation Executive Committee, President Nathan Kitchen, Senior Vice President Jairo Fernando González Díaz, and Vice President Rebecca Solen. Along with the Affirmation director of operations Joel McDonald, they provided valuable assistance to ensure a successful conference.

To open the second day of the conference, we had a small breakfast meeting and then left to visit the Trujillo Peru Temple. Unfortunately, health restrictions due to COVID-19 prevented us from entering the temple grounds. However, from just outside the grounds, we shared how being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had impacted our lives. Even though we were only there for a short time, we felt blessed to be there and for the opportunity to get to know each other better.

To conclude the conference, we visited one of the most famous places in the city, the beach of Huanchaco. While there, we shared one more meal together before attendees began their travels back home. We enjoyed our meal next to the beach and shared how much we enjoyed the conference, which made us feel very nostalgic. There, we took our last pictures together.

One of the most significant things to happen during the conference was the selection of Omar Jeinner Barros Nolasco to lead a new Affirmation chapter in Northern Peru, including the cities of Tumbes, Chimbote, and Trujillo.

This conference was a great experience. To have the opportunity to attend and meet those from Affirmation Peru was incredible. I witnessed how they bravely face LGBTQIA+ discrimination in their country. They put forth so much effort in the hope that little by little the culture of Peru will change. The brightness of those who attended this conference filled me with hope. Meeting all who attended was a huge blessing.

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