Yesterday, I heard the story of a young gay Northern Ireland man in his 20s, which made sad.

He is in his mid-20s and has known he is gay for over a decade.

He is from a very conservative rural part of the country and also a part that is fiercely divided between Catholics and Protestants.

He has not been able to tell his parents about his sexuality as he knows that his family would totally reject him.

His father is a large farmer and a very masculine type who is into guns, shooting, hunting, etc.

Years ago, he made it clear to all his children that if any of them came out as gay they would be totally disowned and be struck from his will.

This, his son, lives in absolute fear of his father.

A few of his friends know his story, and for safety’s sake, he socialises in Belfast.

I know from my pastoral experience and from all the people I meet that this young man is by no means alone.

There are many young men and women living a life of fear, especially in rural areas.

Some of them sadly go on to take their own lives.

I fear this for the young man I am speaking of as his house is packed with guns!

I know that Northern Ireland is very conservative, especially in rural areas. People worry a lot about what other people – the neighbours – think about them.

Things in Northern Ireland are even more complicated by the crazy emphasis on religion here.

The Prods are always banging on about Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Catholics bang on about homosexually being a “disorder” and a “serious sin.”

Most young people don’t give a dam about these things but sadly they are living in families and with parents especially who are religiously brainwashed.

Ministers and priests don’t help !

We will not fix this problem in the short term.

In the long term, part of the solution will be destroying the influence religion has on society here.

Modern states should be both secular and pluralistic.

Churches and religions should be treated like private golf clubs – allowed to exist but have so say in society.

Society should have morals and ethics – but not ones dictated by any any religion or other pressure group.

In the meantime, people like the young gay man suffer.

And some will even die !!!